On The Road, Jack Kerouac

It’s rare that I read a book and am unable to finish it. On the Road

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.

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Books I Need to Read Over the Holiday

I’m lucky enough to be spending Christmas away this year. My family and I are going on a relaxing vacation in Cuba and we plan to do all of about 3 things while we’re away. The first would be to sightsee the beautiful new surroundings. The second: EAT! And the third is my favourite: sitting on the beach, reading.

There are a few books that I’ve waited this whole semester for and now that school is no more I’m happy to share the books I plan to read this holiday with you.

Pan, 2008, 1248 pages (paperback)

1) World Without End by Ken Follett: I’m about halfway through this sequel to Pillars of the Earth. Since I rely on public transit for school and work, I take the 3 hour commute each day as an opportunity to read. Fortunately I will now have less distractions and more time to finish the book without any interruption! So far so good with this novel. Much like Follett’s other novels, this tale is a sweeping epic with an intriguing love story that spans years. It takes place in the 14th century, two centuries after Pillars of the Earth left off. Although the novel still takes place in Kingsbridge, the characters are different – but I’m falling in love with them, just like the first novel. I’d recommend Follett as an author, especially if you enjoy historical fiction. I’ve never been dissatisfied with any of his novels.

on-the-road

Penguin Modern Classics, 2000, 281 pages (paperback)

2) On The Road by Jack Kerouac: This novel was suggested to me by a friend and I’ve been intrigued by it ever since. It’s a sort of coming-of-age novel about young men and their travels across America in the 1940s. They discover a lot of new things during this time and I think the book may be a bit risqué at times but I’ve been told that it’s an amazing read and I’m looking forward to tackling it! (This book was recently made into a movie featuring Kristen Stewart. Needless to say I have NO desire to watch the movie.)

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Berkley Trade, 2010, 470 pages

3) Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn: I bought this book at Value Village and I hope that it fills my longing for Italy. It’s a story about a slave girl who falls in love with a gladiator. Now that I’m reading the back of the novel it reminds me a lot of A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers (an amazing read), but I look forward to exploring the history of Rome through this novel. I recently returned home from living in Rome for a year and so now I crave anything that will remind me of my time there. Hopefully this book will!

TVC-hi-res

Knopf Canada, 2011, 356 pages (hardcover)

4) The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay: I read McKay’s novel The Birth House and loved everything about it, especially her talent for writing. I actually didn’t know what The Virgin Cure was about until I read a summary now – and it sounds a bit heavy. The novel takes place in Manhattan in the 19th century and features a 12-year-old girl who gets involved in life at a brothel – and the importance of her virginity. It sounds a bit sinister but if the novel is anything like McKay’s last, I know that I’ll find this to be fantastic book despite the heavy content.

Maybe I’ll finish all these books while I’m away, maybe I won’t. Regardless I hope to have a few new reviews written up for you in a month or two!