Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On The Road -- Jack Kerouac

On the Road has been on my list of books to read. I think it's because my older sister, Lisa, liked 10,000 Maniacs, and I too became a fan. How do these two connect? Natalie Merchant's deep and mysterious voice sang about the Beat Generation -- singing about Kerouac, Burroughs, and Ginsberg in one of their earlier songs and it sparked an interest at a young age. "Hey Jack Kerouac, I think of your mother and the tears she cried, she cried for none other than her little boy lost in a world that hated and dared to drag him down." How sad. So, 20 years later, I picked up On the Road. And, honestly, I really disliked it. I think I understand why it's famous. It's reminiscent of the time I suppose -- the Beat Generation -- and that's great. But it just wasn't for me. I'm surprised I made it through. I listened to it in the car, and really, if I had been reading it, I think I would have put it down. The main problem for me is that I didn't care about him. I wasn't interested in his life. Instead of reflecting any real development in his character, it was a travel log that just didn't interest me. If I had read this book in 1951 when it was originally published, or if I were young during those days, perhaps it would be more meaningful to me as I could possibly relate to the cultural changes and how jazz, drugs, and poetry were beginning to have a larger impact on the nation. But as I was born in 1980, I didn't connect. I'm normally not so shallow as to say that if it doesn't relate to me, it's trash. Even so, critiquing only literary aspects of the novel, it was flat. I didn't feel there was anything special about the writing and so I depended on the story...and I just didn't do it for me. A big disappointing "Ugh!" from me, which is all too bad. 10,000 Maniacs made it all seem much more intriguing than the book really was. And though he's written others, this one is deemed his most famous and best...and if this is the best, I'm done. Sorry Jack. I'm sure you're a good guy though.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

there's a death cab for cutie song that talks about the singer (ben gibbard) going to a cabin that jack kerouac stayed at in california - apparently trying to have some type of kerouac-ian experience - but was ultimately disappointed with the lack thereof.

after i learned this i got interested in "on the road", since it is "one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005", but when i read a summary of it i got much less interested.

maybe you have to be in a band to appreciate it.


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