Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On the Road--Jack Kerouac

Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 1957
Pages: 313
Rating: 3/5

I first met Dean not long after my wife and I had split up.

I expected to like this book a lot more than I actually did. In fact, it is surprising that I never read it before--during my highschool years I embraced ideals of the counter-culture and became some sort of hippie incarnation. After highschool I traveled the country, following the Grateful Dead from show to show, hitching rides from fellow Deadheads with nothing but a bag full of clothes and a sleeping bag. So many people have spoken of this book to me--how they loved it, how it influenced them to travel. But I think if I read this book previously, if anything it would have turned me OFF that lifestyle.

It isn't the writing--Kerouac's prose is delightful to read, wandering, poetic ramblings that manage to be both profound and inane. It's the characters. They're heinous. I'm not sure if I've ever read a book with more selfish, self-centered, narcissistic characters. OK, maybe Wuthering Heights, but besides that. It was like a laundry list of transgressions: someone leaving another wife, or ripping off another person, or stealing another car, or abandoning another friend. I'll admit that Dean's descent into madness was somewhat interesting, in the way that a freak show is interesting. But even all the stories got tedious. It was like hearing someone excitedly tell of their past drunken exploits--"Oh man, we were sooooo wasted, guess what we did????"--for over three hundred pages. Again and again.

I am glad I read it--I've been meaning to for years, so at least I've gotten it out of the way, and now I know for myself what it is all about. But I must admit I'm disappointed. And I sure won't put this one on my read-it-again list.

Book a week # 47
Challenges: TBR, 1% Well Read, Decades, Modern Library
Date Read: 10/26/09

1 comment:

Greg Zimmerman said...

I had nearly the same reaction you did when I read On The Road for the first time a few months ago - gooood, but not great. I'm also glad I read it because of Kerouac's prose, but the individual vignettes all started to run together after awhile.