Alex's Reviews > On the Road

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
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really liked it
bookshelves: favorite-reviews, reading-through-history, 2012, rth-lifetime, dick-lit

I discovered Kerouac in tenth grade, right when all the kicks seem most dazzling, and I thought yes! This is the crazy bohemian life! And I spent the next ten years trying to be a Beatnik. I hitchhiked from Atlanta to Philadelphia just because according to this book that's the sort of thing one does. No one really hitchhiked, already, in those days; old hippies would pick me up looking bewildered. Well, and racist truckers, too, so some things never change. I would have given my left nut for some benzedrine, or barring that for someone at least to explain to me what the fuck it was. (Just as well that I failed on this front, because it turns out that it is meth.) I even replayed Dean Moriarty's shoplifting scene note-for-note. That's how seriously I took this book.

So you can understand that, as a pushing-40 guy who says things like "Man, it's 11, I'm beat," and means "tired," I was not at all keen to revisit this. It's a young man's book. "That's not writing," Truman Capote said, "it's typing." Oh God, getting drunk and talking about the snake of the world...remember when that felt dangerous?

But it's not totally silly, actually - I mean, it is, but not all silly things are pointless and there's nothing wrong with a snake of the world, intrinsically.

I see it now as a warning. Kerouac was hitting 30 when he wrote it, and you sense a desperation: "Where is my story?" You sense some manipulation, too. Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) is a mentally unstable man, and I think the Beats used him for stories. I was inspired by him when I was young; now I feel bad for him. I see that filthy bandaged thumb. Neither Kerouac nor Cassady lived to 50. (Although Cassady, astonishingly, had one more story in him.) I had a good time when I was young; I'm glad I've graduated to different kinds of good times now.

But this is a young man's book. All you beatniks, go out and hitchhike and be broke and desperate on the snake of the world. It's a kick.
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Reading Progress

September 18, 2010 – Shelved
October 23, 2012 – Started Reading
October 28, 2012 – Finished Reading
July 9, 2013 – Shelved as: favorite-reviews
July 9, 2013 – Shelved as: reading-through-history
July 9, 2013 – Shelved as: 2012
January 2, 2015 – Shelved as: rth-lifetime
August 4, 2018 – Shelved as: dick-lit

Comments Showing 1-29 of 29 (29 new)

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Reid Hey Alex, 4 stars from you and without a review is not all that promising! ; ) I'm gonna believe this is worth reading, looks like it will win the vote. I'm predicting I'll appreciate it, but we'll see.


Alex Ugh, is it really gonna win? I do not feel like I need to read this book again.

I liked it when I was in my early 20s, which is the right time to read masturbatory rebel stuff like this. I have a feeling I'd think it was masturbatory rebel stuff these days.

Man, I wanted to read Camus.


Reid I wasn't in the mood for Camus' book, I read it once and just don't feel like delving into the existential muck and paralysis right now. I'm hoping Road will be a bit poetic and inspirational in some way. "Good luck with that," right?


Alex Yep. Good luck with that.


Reid So Alex, if you choose to revisit this you may want to check out The Original Scroll version - real names, bit more naughty bits, no chapters, etc. Might be interesting for you to compare the two. I haven't decided yet which one, haven't looked at them, but I will probably go with the scroll.


Alex Interesting - yeah, thanks, if I do decide to slog through it again while making lots of exaggerated sighing noises, it might help to do a slightly different version.


message 7: by Sera (new)

Sera I was thinking about reading this one after Lolita, but I now find myself uninterested.


Reid Hey, Alex, before the meeting last night I was in the book shop and strangely my eyes landed on The Savage Detectives, by Bolano, and I bought it, because the book said the author advocated hitting the road to get at the true stuff of life, at least for writers and poets. So, naturally I had to buy it after reading OTRoad. Anyway, I just read S.Penkavich's (?) review, and he talks about really digging OTR as much as you, both in your youth. Check out his review. Perhaps you'll want to read the Detectives, too. http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


Alex Interesting! And coincidentally I was just chatting with another dude on this site who compared the two. Savage Detectives is apparently sometimes called Latin American beat lit.

Gonna have to bump it up my list, I guess.


Jennifer having just come of reading 2666 -- i hope you get to savagae detectives soon. bolano is...WOW! SD and another of his books, amulet, are both briefly tied into 2666. so, i will be reading both soon.


Jason The Savage Detectives is like On the Road for grown-ups. (There's also a reading group that was active this summer (but people still hang around the threads for a while afterward).)

Tell me when you're sick of me.


message 12: by Ken (new)

Ken Guess who hasn't read this, either? I tried once. Not much of a try, admittedly, but I tried.


Jason Newengland wrote: "Guess who hasn't read this, either? I tried once. Not much of a try, admittedly, but I tried."

(Save yourself the time.)


message 14: by Alex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex Yeah - too late now, my man. Although your students might like it.


message 15: by Ken (new)

Ken "Too late now, my (well-aged) man." I suppose I can't "Go West!" anymore, either. My Horace Greeley days are over!

And yet, I can reread The Catcher in the Rye (did so a few years ago) and love it even more than I did in high school, so hope (if not the Fountain of Youth) springs eternal.


message 16: by Alex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex I need to reread Catcher in the Rye, actually. I feel like I'm finally ready to approach that book without any prejudgment.


Jason I re-read Catcher in the Rye recently; it holds up. I just bought Franny and Zooey for $6 on Amazon—it arrived yesterday—which I've never read but hope to read soon.


message 18: by Chinook (new) - added it

Chinook You give me hope. I'm going to read this and I was dreading it.


message 19: by Ken (new)

Ken When I read Catcher in high school, I was completely focused on the protagonist, of course. It was all about Holden, his voice, his catch phrases (particularly the "phony" shots). Reading it in my afternoon years, I focused more on the world around Holden, the fact that it is approaching Christmas, the sadness of the world and how some people do not have the coping mechanisms the rest of us take for granted. And, of course, Phoebe became less of a bit player....


message 20: by Kelley (new)

Kelley I read this in 10th grade too, but was bored to death. Maybe I'll give it another go with Bookish U...


message 21: by Alex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex Can't say I have high hopes that it'll go any better for you this time around, honestly.


message 22: by Sera (new)

Sera Nothing that is being said about this book in this thread is changing my mind about skipping it :)


message 23: by Alex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex Yeah - you know, I did like it fine, but if you're not interested in it, I don't see it working. It's not like some amazing book that I'm gonna try to sell you on because I know you'll love it if you give it a chance. You really have to want to buy into Kerouac's bullshit. (And it is bullshit!)


message 24: by Sera (new)

Sera Ha ha ha - I have enough bullshit going at the moment with Amy Chua. Thanks for the head's up.


message 25: by Kelley (new)

Kelley Hmmm. I loved Catcher in the Rye in high school and hated it as an adult. I was thinking I might have the opposite reaction here, but I have no patience for BS now.


Nicole Scown I went into this book with recommendations from a friend and I really loved it. I didn't find it hard to read and i'd happily read it again. I found Kerouac's descriptive tongue inspirational and I say tongue because I felt like I could hear him, and not in an I'm on some sort of tea (pun intended) myself sorta way.


message 27: by Matthias (new) - added it

Matthias Wonderful review and thank you for sharing the refreshing perspective with which you read it! I will use it when reading this book for myself.


message 28: by Alex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex Hey thanks, Matthias! I appreciate it.


Claudia Putnam It's fashionable to did Kerouac these days, but it's definitely not just typing.


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