Monday, 14 March 2011

On The Road by Jack Kerouac (5/5)

So, I've wanted to read this for a long time, but have for some reason kept stalling. Mostly because whenever a lot of people say that a certain book changed their lives, history has taught me to be very suspicious. But hey, I'll try anything once.

And I'm glad I did.

The back says: 'On the Road' swings to the rhythm of 1950's underground America, jazz, sex, generosity, chill dawns and drugs, with Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty, traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat. Now recognized as a modern classic, Kerouac's American Dream is nearer that of Walt Whitman than F. Scott Fitzgerald's, and the narrative goes racing towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and passion.

I say: This book is so intense, and I'm not used to reading such a fast pased narrative. I found myself initially reading 20 pages at a time and then putting it down to collect my thoughts. So much is happening all the time, so many names, stories, cities and circumstances are being thrown at you, and at first I was confused about what to focus on.

Which was the point of it all; what makes it such a great book. 

The title of the book pretty much says it all, Sal Paradise spends most of it "on the road" with various characters. And they're all characters, believe you me. Dean Moriarty being the biggest, loudest and most intense of them all. I can't even begin to describe them all, and even though they all play their part in the story, for me, it was all about Sal and how he allowed himself to be enticed by Dean time and time again.

And I'm not even sure if 'entice' is the right word since Sal was beyond hypnotised by Dean.

My favourite parts of the book were when Kerouac was describing the musicians playing in the clubs. It was so ridiculously vivid it felt like I was there; I could hear the horns, see the sweaty bodies dancing, taste the whiskey and smoke in the air, and I just wanted to yell out "blow!" and keep going all night.

I could quite literally go on for hours about this book, and that was a pleasant surprise. Undoubtedly, had I read this earlier in life it would have changed it everything, but I somehow feel as though I've been feeling like Sal for the past 5 or 6 years, although my travels on the road haven't been near as epic as his. I arrived there naturally, at wanting to be a part of what Kerouac refers to as Beat, and in a way, On The Road is a strange glorification of a lifestyle, if you may, that is frowned upon.

Two final things.

One. Dean Moriarty was insane. And I love it.

Two. "Anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven, for what's heaven? what's earth? All in the mind." (p. 223)

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