Pretty much all my life I’ve seen and heard references to the book ‘On the Road’ by Jack Kerouac. In movies, on television, in songs… its spoken of as a guide to life, a philosophical journey, even a right of passage… its talked of with a reverence that is usually held for things like the Bible… So, I was at the book store and I saw a copy on sale for $7 and I thought, ‘What the hell?’ and I bought it.
Perhaps the problem is that times have changed too much for Kerouac’s work to hold up, but, man, does this book ever suck!
Seriously, first off, its written in a stream of conciousness style from a man whose conciousness is like a wreck of freight trains, going in a dozen directions at once all piled on top of each other in an enormous mess of words. Secondly, none of his characters are sympathetic… perhaps in the late 50’s and early 60’s and even into the 70’s it was ‘cool’ and ‘with it’ to leave all responsibility behind and just run off and travel the roads, but that time has gone or at least I just don’t get it. The entire book I was waiting for someone to sit Dean Moriarty down and slap him in the face… He’s a completely reprehensible human being. He meets a girl, marries her, gets her knocked up, then immediately leaves town to find another girl. He blows off everything, storms into other people’s lives and leaves charred wreckage in his wake. The fact that Sal keeps hanging around this craphead is just annoying, and even more so that he seems to idolize him.
In the end, as someone who wants to be a writer, I’m glad I read the book. In my opinion, its a perfect example of everything not to do. I just wish it hadn’t been such a slow read so that I wouldn’t have wasted as much time on it as I did.