I tried to get through On the Road by Jack Kerouac, I really did. I had been recommended this book by a good friend and was told that once I picked it up, I would never be able to put it down. The problem was for me that once I picked it up, all I wanted to do was put it down! It must be that we have different genres and interests when it comes to reading because, although this book is a classic, I was unable to appreciate or enjoy it.
The premise is this: Sal Paradise, a young 20-something year-old man picks up and leaves his life to go to San Francisco for the first time. There he meets Dean Moriarty who is a young (-ish), selfish, drug addicted, wreck of a man who Sal admires above everything else. Throughout the novel Sal is taken on a wild ride of drugs, sex, and cross-country travel, meeting interesting (and stressful, frustrating and stupid [my opinion]) characters along the way. The care-free attitude of each character is something that I think would resonate with a lot of young people in the late 50’s when this book was published. Coming out of war and depression, I can imagine that freedom was sought after by many, and I think that this book encapsulates a lot of the attitudes of American youth during the 1950’s. The fun jazz music, the excitement, the freedom to travel across the nation, loving whoever whenever… That being said, I know that within the novel there was some sort of metaphor that I just didn’t understand. Now I can’t even remember if it was drugs Moriarty was addicted to or if his behaviour was just so spastic that drugs were all I could think of!
Kerouac wrote this novel based on some of his own experiences. If any part of this book is accurate then I must say that Kerouac really did lead an interesting life! And like I said earlier, I can imagine the excitement that the novel would have to many. Just not to me. Not only was the story difficult to relate to but the writing was also all over the place. The story felt recycled at times because it seemed to just repeat itself over and over with no climax or interesting section to draw me in.
I stopped reading the novel about 65% of the way in. It was impossible for me to continue and since I was on holiday, I didn’t want the book to drag me down and stop me from reading all the other novels I was looking forward to!
In 2012 the novel was adapted into a film featuring actors Garett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, and Kirsten Dunst. I haven’t watched it yet but hope that if I do watch it, I will find it more engaging than the book. If anyone has read the book or seen the movie, I’d love to hear what you think. Did I miss something when reading the book? What is the metaphor that I didn’t understand? Share with me, I’d love to hear.
Quitting On the Road was a relief. I wanted to enjoy the book! I thought that reading about men in the 1940’s traveling across the USA in a car while listening to jazz music would be a big giant win! But oh was I wrong. Next time I read a novel like this (specifically one labelled ‘beat’ or ‘counterculture’) I need to do some more research so I avoid wasting time and effort on a novel that I just don’t get.