On the Road, by Jack Kerouac

February 16, 2013 at 11:28 (Biography, Book Reviews, Highly Rated Books) (, , , , )




In the parlance of the Twenty-First Century, On the Road is a singular and remarkable blog transcript. The problem in claiming this is that it is incredibly difficult to find a blog that says anything worth saying; and those that are written about the most fascinating things are never written by gifted storytellers. Jack Kerouac sets down a truly spellbinding trail of experiences and maturations, but in spite of the constraints of reality (or the freedom of writing fact as fiction), he produces a throbbing, vibrant, masterpiece that transcends the brief span of post-war years in which it was set, and becomes something almost spiritual.

“Just ahead, over the rolling wheatfields all golden beneath the distant snows of Estes, I’d be seeing old Denver at last. I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was ‘Wow!'”

-On the Road

There is a startling mysticism clasped within these pages, where Kerouac repurposes the “beat” label with no small trace of irony into beatification, and in hushed tones describes the holiness of the unwinding road. Psychoanalysts will have a field day (and surely already have) with the oft-discarded and oft-rejoined quest to find Dean Moriarty’s errant father who is always at the end of the next road, and Dean’s own transformation into the same type throughout the erratic adventures, but what Jack Kerouac writes–powerfully, and crashing through and above any attempts to psychoanalyse the protagonists–is a profound sense of longing; of desperation through madness and passion in a passionless world.

Without hectoring his readers or (worse) shamelessly romanticising the journey he recounts, Kerouac has some moving things to say about the human condition and the ubiquity of modernism. More importantly, he says it in a personable and unpretentious way, and with a warm and inviting style. To open this book is to open the door of a run-down old car–from any decade, providing it is fifteen years old–and find smiling and mad and troubled faces there within. Where you going? Sure. Hop in.


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