Wacky Jack Kerouac

Desert road

Desert road image courtesy of minieffects, Morguefile.

I found Jack Kerouac’s classic novel On The Road a couple of weeks ago and decided to read it so that I could cross it off my literary bucket list. It’s a strange thing…when I first heard about the book I thought it was going to be an autobiography. It is, but not in the sense that I thought.

On The Road is a classic road-trip novel featuring a protagonist called Sal Paradise, who makes several cross-country journeys with his friends, including a man called Dean Moriarty, between 1947 and 1950. (Kerouac is Sal, Dean is based on Kerouac’s friend Neal Cassady.)

I had to like Dean. Dean talks and talks and talks and runs around “digging” everything. His manic energy would probably drive me nuts in about five seconds during a road trip (he’s got enough energy to power about 100 power plants) and he seems to have a total absence of modesty, but he’ll never be a boring guy.

And Dean’s lit up with excitement over every little thing. Maybe that would be the best travel companion to have…one who sees wonder in everything new, no matter how big or how small.

Kerouac paints vivid verbal pictures as the characters progress through the book. I could almost see the smoky jazz clubs, the mysterious Mississippi River, the eerie swamps and the mud-caked plains. During one trip, the characters venture into Mexico and you get an equally vivid portrait of life in Mexico.

I had a little trouble with the slang. Kerouac describes beautiful women and places as “gone,” but I understood “chick” and “beat” well enough.

Overall, On The Road was a pretty good road trip book. Some of it appalled me, some of it fascinated me, but it was compelling enough to keep my attention and I was sad when it ended.

Blog readers: Have you read On The Road? What was your reaction?

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35 Comments

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35 responses to “Wacky Jack Kerouac

  1. I read it as part of a Literature of the Beat Movement class. I went to school in Lowell, Massachusetts, where they love all things Kerouac. I have to admit that I didn’t like any of it. ;D

  2. I’ve never really wanted to read OTR, but you may have changed my mind. Nice review!

  3. This has been a book on my “to-read” list. Having read your post pushes it up in the queue.

  4. No, I haven’t read this book. Sounds interesting enough, but road trip books would be low in my list of must-read books. And my list of must-read books is l…o…n…g!

  5. I have read the book. It was definitely a good read and I learned a lot about the culture of the time it covered.

  6. Servetus

    Yes, when I was 21. My reaction: yawn — I think it had been hyped too much, plus I had developed an allergy in college against anything that was supposed to be “cool.”

  7. I haven’t read it (well…maybe? back in college? not sure now…) but my daughter read it last year and loved it. She thought it was “gone”. *smile* Is that the right use of the slang?

  8. Sounds like one I should make time to read – (and I do plan to take some blog silence time to do that – what a luxury!). Thanks for the way you tell a great deal about the book in a short space.

    • You’re welcome. I hope that I don’t overdo my description of a book, because I don’t want to ruin a reader’s enjoyment of it by giving all the details away. I tell just enough to whet someone’s appetite of a book I liked and thought others might enjoy.

  9. Haven’t read the book but watched the movie based on Kerouac and Neal ages ago. It starred Sissy Spacek and Nick Nolte. Might be an insightful companion.

  10. gun street girl

    Honestly? How old are you?

  11. It is on my bucket list too. I moved it up a few notches based on your post.

  12. Have not read it, but felt it was always one of those books I should read some day. ~ Kat

  13. Nope, haven’t read it. I like your review though. Sometimes others’ reviews are better than the actual books.

  14. This one — along with Moby Dick and a few others — is also on my bucket list. Help! That’s what holiday breaks are for!

    Oh, and if I may digress a little, I kind of wish your title was, “Wacky Jacky Kerouacky.”

    I’ll see myself out.

  15. I’ve never read it, but have always been intrigued with its mysterious place in literary standing. It has always been mentioned as a classic example of the Beat Generation literature, perhaps helping to usher in the beginnings of irreverence toward society’s standards and mores. I suppose I’ll have to add this to my reading “bucket list” for next summer. Just curious: You mentioned that parts of the novel “appalled you.” Any further details on this? Thanks for the review.

  16. It’s another award. Actually, it’s the same award … another star for your Blog of the Year, 2012 award. It’s my fifth. I don’t know how many you have, but I hope is at least a bit of a Christmas gift! Happy, merry and joyous celebrations!

    http://teepee12.wordpress.com/2012/12/22/blog-of-the-year-2012-and-now-we-are-five/

  17. When I saw this book on sale, I was halfway thru a road trip cross country and didn’t think it wise to read it while trying to forget I had 1,000 miles to go! Lol. I will add it to my kindle list now though! :)

  18. Santa has way too many awards, so he’s dropping a bunch of them for you to do with as you choose. There are some real goodies in there, including another star for the Blog of the Year 2012, and 4 or 5 others. Take’em all, take your pick, enjoy. It’s Christmas, almost!

    http://teepee12.wordpress.com/2012/12/22/blog-of-the-year-2012-six-stars-and-the-liebster-most-inspiring-versitile-and-reality-awards-too-plus-my-favorite-youll-see/

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