Review: On The Road

Sal Paradise, a young innocent, joins the slightly crazed Dean Moriarty on a breathless, exuberant ride back and forth across the United States. Their hedonistic search for release or fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz becomes an exploration of personal freedom, a test of the limits of the American dream. A brilliant blend of fiction and autobiography, Jack Kerouac’s exhilarating novel defined the new ‘Beat’ generation. It had tremendous impact on both sides of the Atlantic and made him famous overnight.

Parts of this book made me want to go to sleep and I’d find myself yawning and blinking my eyes rapidly to focus, but at the same time I enjoyed parts of it. In particular the first 150 pages and the last 3 pages. Maybe that’s odd that I mention the last three pages and a part of me actually thinks it is. It’s odd because those parts stand out very clear cut and the rest of the story, even though it’s all in my head and I didn’t miss any detail, seems to be not as obvious to me.

Or maybe it’s just because at some point the book ends up being all the same because even though there is a lot going on with these people there is also nothing going on whatsoever. Nothing seems to change even when there are changes. It’s all so linear which perplexes me because if this is out of Jack Kerouac’s life, well I’ve read true to life stories that weren’t linear at all or flat. They had deviations. They went up and down. There was far more emotion in most of them.

That’s another factor about On The Road that I’ve noticed. There’s plenty of interesting characters in there, most of who are crazy and hyper, but even though a lot of these characters are so full of energy and all over the place with their emotions I didn’t feel any emotions at all towards them. I felt emotionless right up the last three pages.

As for the linear aspect of it, I wonder if that’s because he wrote the whole thing in one go? How often do you read a novel or book written by someone who wrote it all in one go? How often do you read something written so quickly that it hasn’t had the chance to be subjected to several emotions over time? Maybe that’s why it is linear and emotionless to me, yet frenetic. It is such a frenetic story and the characters are also so frantic. They’re all nuts, kind of pathetic, and not always very nice people. Actually most of them are just arseholes. One is a complete maniac, childish, self absorbed, and a real arsehole when you think of it. Obviously I’m talking about Dean. Dean and all the women around him are all nut jobs. I also think Sal (Jack) is a complete dumbarse. Actually I think just about all the characters in this story are the type of people I would never want to be involved with in any shape or form, even if it’s asking for directions or something. Not because it’s a beat generation and they’re all poor. Not that at all, but because they’re all arseholes and nut cases.

Other than that Jack Kerouac wrote some beautiful lines, very entertaining descriptions, and it’s very interesting to read  something that you know was written in one go. Especially from a writer’s perspective. I’m quite impressed with it because of that, but otherwise I find it’s only a good read for pop culture purposes and to understand what others are on about. For me it is at least, even though at the same time my brain seems to have clung to the story and I want to follow everyone after it.

I find it funny as well that I can’t stand these people and their idiocy, but I don’t hate the story. I think perhaps if it was written differently, even though I feel it’s devoid of emotion, then I’d probably hate it. I don’t hate it. I don’t even dislike it. The problem is I don’t see the attraction to it and why so many people romanticise a lifestyle of disloyalty, self absorption, disrespect to themselves and others, and bad manners. You can have travel and have a bid for freedom without those things so if you’re a fan of On The Road and especially if you want to live it can you please explain to me what the appeal is and what you loved about it?

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