On the Road
by Jack Kerouac
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
Another one of my favourite novels! Starting my first itchy feet, this book was a big factor in making me want to travel. It is a pure hedonistic whirlwind, rollercoaster of a ride back and forth across Beat America. Which is the child-friendly way of describing On the Road without mentioning the sex, drugs and out-of-this-world crazy. The most popular story about the novel was that Kerouac wrote it solidly during a three week haze of drugs and drink, which is pretty indicative of the kind of novel it is.
An autobiographical work, the novel follows Kerouac’s (Sal Paradise) journeys around America, often in orbit of Neal Cassady (Dean Moriaty). It begins with Sal as a young man, full of hope and excitement, ready to take and accept any situation that comes his way in his journey across America. Entranced with Dean and his wild energy, Sal follows him, wanting to live that same out of control lifestyle and to ultimately break free. Their friendship evolves throughout the novel, but for the most part, out of all the crazy friends they have, they remain travelling companions.
Even after reading On the Road so many times, it still grabs me and entices me to grab a bag and hit the road in a way that is impossible to ignore. To be free, to do what you want, when you want, with little responsibility. I think, a romanticised lifestyle that a lot of people would yearn for, whether or not they could actually do it. Or even undertake it in the way that Sal, Dean and their friends do.
Although Kerouac is Sal, and Sal is the narrator, the star of the story is Dean.
I’ve always seen the novel as a journey in itself, the enthusiasm fluctuates with Sal’s mood. This is far more apparent at the end of the novel, as I find it harder to keep reading as I did in the beginning. The sheer energy wears you out.
Perhaps all the people in the novel seem exaggerated and unbelievable, it doesn’t quite seem real that they could and would act and react in the ways that they do. It’s hard to get attached to them as you would a ordinary novel, the unpredictability and loose morals can be confusing and almost seem to belong to a world that the ordinary reader doesn’t belong to.
Yet that is perhaps what is most enticing about it. To think that yes! I could belong to this crazy life that would enjoy and live life to the fullest! but not face the consequences. The novel allows such a reader a line into that life, convincing them that anyone could do it.
This is possibly one of the hardest reviews I’ve written. Although I love this novel and have read it almost a dozen times, I find it difficult to describe or argue its brilliance. I have seen some people describe it as overrated, and certainly, it might not be to everyone’s taste.
But it is worth reading at least once, it might change your life.
Four point nine out of five.
I totally did it for the url.