03 June 2009

36. On The Road

On The Road - Jack Kerouac

This book was suggested by a friend who is a bit further on in years than myself. He said it was one of the books that defined a generation and was a tremendous influence on people he knew. I read a few reviews on line and they seemed to back him up in his assessment of the book.

In my opinion this book is not all that great. I did not enjoy reading it, nor did I find the writing particularly good. There is a note at the beginning of the book that is kind of like a short bio of the author. In that note it says that Kerouac called his writing "spontaneous prose". I will agree with that. It did seem that it just flowed out. This happened. Then this happened. Describe some stuff along the way. There was no real plot. There was no real story line. Just a list of places these guys went, who they met there, which club they went to, who they screwed over, and then move on the the next place where the same thing repeats. What I think is that the people themselves and not a string of events were the actual story.

This was just a few people who thought they were cool for being lazy, conning other people, messing with peoples emotions, being shallow and self-indulgent, always thinking about what they wanted and where they would get the next "kick". I found nothing interesting about people acting like that...just screwing everyone else and walking away like it was all just fine in the big scheme of things. Punks!

The only part of the book I did enjoy was pretty close to the end. The road trip to Mexico City was interesting. I think it is because they did not look to screw people over on that trip. They were in awe of the things they saw and the people they encountered. That was how they should have been all along.

To Kerouac's credit, the way he defined his characters in the writing ensured I understood who they were and their motivations. His descriptions were excellent. At the same time, the descriptions of other things were distracting. He spent a lot of time writing allegory and metaphors to describe jazz music and musicians. I could not stand when he did that.
One thing I never did understand is why Sal even liked Dean at all. Everyone else seemed to tolerate Dean and eventually shunned him. Sal didn't. I don't get it. The dude was all about himself, all the time. He stole cars just for fun. He had three wives and four kids spread out all over the country. He would drop his family and friends at any moment just for fun. He was an ass. So, what was it that Sal saw in Dean that made him keep hanging out with this loser rather than some of the other folks that were less dickish?
The "beat generation" language was initially distracting, but I got used to that as I read further into the story. Kerouac used the word "hincty" a number of times. I looked it up. It is a slang word originating around 1920-1925 meaning conceited or snobbish.
I am glad I read it, but I must admit that I wanted to put it aside and move on to something else. I finished this one due to sheer will-power. I would not suggest you read it unless you feel like reading something...something...I don't even know how to describe it. :-)

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