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?