Adam's Reviews > On the Road

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
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's review
Jan 08, 2012

did not like it
bookshelves: 1900-1969, prose

Although the ideas hold a certain appeal, this book is ultimately just a half-assed justification of some pretty stupid, self-destructive, irresponsible, and juvenile tendencies and attitudes, the end result of which is a validation of being a deadbeat loser, a perpetual child. This validation is dressed up as a celebration of freedom etc.

As literary art, stylistically, the book is pretty bad. The analogies to bebop or even free jazz are misguided. That improvisation was by talented musicians, or at least musicians who understood music, had a remarkable ear. Kerouac is just rambling and he thinks that qualifies as the literary equivalent of jazz improv. It doesn't. It's just tiresome. DeLillo's prose is an example of prose that more accurately can be described as analogous to bebop.

I'm not going to hold it against anyone that they like this book. I know that it influenced some important and serious artists, who were many times Kerouac's superiors. I understand its appeal, and even its historical importance. But reading it today, and not being 16 anymore, it really is a bit of a joke.

Its importance in itself, too, has faded. The Beats live on as myth that surpasses, for the most part, their actual output in both resonance and quality. Moreover, their myth has been adapted, especially in popular music, so well that it has rendered a lot of their actual work trivial, especially the lesser Beats (in terms of talent), eg. Kerouac. Nobody needs to read On the Road anymore, and all it's going to do is perpetuate some pretty idiotic notions we already have enough of, and lead to a lot of ripoffs of ripoffs of Whitman thinking their poetry is important and crowding bars I don't want to have to see them at.

Just look at contemporary literature, the voices we have, the stuff that's selling well on the literary market. A lot of that stuff is just workshop fiction that isn't going to last long in particular well-regard, but a lot of it is brilliant stuff, and far more literate, intelligent, and interesting than what this guy had to offer.

This book's time is up. Aside from youth clinging to a false nostalgia for a nonexistent time and place and crowd, its appeal is pretty much done too.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
January 8, 2012 – Shelved
January 8, 2012 – Shelved as: 1900-1969
January 8, 2012 – Shelved as: prose
January 8, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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Kevin I could not explain how I feel about this book any better. This is the perfect review.


David Having just finished On the Road, I can't help but agree with your assessment.


message 3: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Yes! I really feel quite bad for Jack Kerouac. He never seems to really find himself or grow up which you find out in Big Sur. A sad existence if you ask me.


David Sarkies Great review. I don't necessarily agree, but I see where you come from. While I enjoyed the book, my thoughts were 'is this all the Beats were, just a bunch of people writing about life', surely anybody could have written a novel about a road trip.


Brian Kehoe I agree, wholeheartedly. I read this book at a time in my life when I was in a bad place place and yearned for freedom, travel, some kind of spiritual awakening. I heard a lot about this book down through the years and in some weird way, thought I could somehow travel its story line. But felt that in the end, the characters want for travel was just an excuse to get wasted and act like a moron. It kind of reminded me of that friend you know who's just returned from a year of traveling around the world, and all they have to show for it are countless stories about extended drink and drugs binges and nothing else!


Kristina Liebute Exactly how I feel. Great review. Thanks!


message 7: by Paul (new) - added it

Paul Scullion Its crap


Anna Kravchuk This. Thank you.


message 9: by Ida (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ida Yass! (pun intended)


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