Wednesday, August 15, 2007

defending "On the Road"

Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" had a huge impact on me when I read it at the tender age of 15. The radical stream-of-consciousness writing and counter-culture sentiment, I can safely say, changed me fundamentally. For the first time, I read (in a book! not teee veee!) about the boho life style: drugs, sex, music, road-tripin'. How it was all possible--to be smart and thoughtful about hedonism. How Kerouac was all for "the mad people" seemed comforting and inspiring. Feeling out-of-place in my high school, wanting more, he was giving me a sort of formation of all my nebulous ideas and passions that I would value most in my young adult life. Funny, true, skewed visions of his journeys were vividly portrayed with a sloppy, passionate and verbose style of writing. I could do this, I thought…I’d really, really *love* to do this…

It was pure (true?) romance to me. I never imagined such a romantic ideal before. Casting all "adult” responsibility aside, making maybe not-so-smart decisions and seeing America (*really* seeing, as they say...) by car. It was dated, sure. Full of 50s slang and drug/culture/literature references. But, for me, it seemed downright modern. And, hell, I still use the word "tea." It's the best. Even before I read the book, I was hell-bent on thinking I was born in the wrong decade. Afterwards, I was fucking positive….to quote Brian Wilson, I just wasn’t made for these times…cat.

Any time I cite "On the Road" as one of my favorite books to anyone my age, most people tell me they couldn't even finish was's dated...whatever. ("The Catcher in the Rye" has this effect, as well. For me, it contained some of the most accurate interpretations of adolescent vs. adult world of hypocrisy--much like aspects of "On the Road"...but to some of my friends, they feel it’s overrated and childish. humph.)

Well, the book about Kerouac’s mad travels is "turning 50" as they like to put it. The Times had this thing online today.’s filled with comments from people who cite really eloquent reasons for lauding it or despising it, and plenty of inarticulate ones, too. And that’s cool—they sure beat the insipid comments that follow any goddamn YouTube video. sheeeeeeesh.

**ooh, and dig it: the photo is of Kerouac's original 120-foot manuscript that became the book.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

is this eloquent, inarticulate, or insipid?? haha

70.August 15th,
6:32 am “Lessons?”

Perhaps Robert Hunter’s lyrics from “Eyes of the World;”

“Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world,
The heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own.
Wake now, discover that you are the song that the morning brings”

Or Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands;”

“That it ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.”

Essentially, the same lesson rock n’ roll taught generations of listeners about freedom.

Oddly, Kerouac’s counter-culture has become the dominant culture, and so the thrill is gone from its experiences as it has been converted from singular soul searching quests for personal epithanies to normal rites of passages.

Personally, I like Kerouac’s “Visions of Cody” better.

(btw always read Kerouac aloud for full impact)

— Posted by kuvasz