Chris Chester's Reviews > On the Road

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
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's review
Nov 03, 2013

it was ok

This is one of those classics that you read and it just feels incomplete or unevolved because you're already familiar with books that have built on it. At the same time, I can still see why this book would feel so huge to the beat generation.

To start with, I feel echoes of my own journey through life in Dean and Sal's relentless pursuit of the NOW. At the novel's best, you feel like you're really out on the road with your buddies, listening to jazz, bouncing around cities, and pursuing the joys of life. There's a romance to it that I feel was probably a lot more exotic and unfamiliar in 1957.

But I'm not a college kid anymore. I try to make a special effort to slow down and experience the moment. If there is such a thing as God, it's only accessible in those flickers of hyper-awareness that one gets through sports, sex, drugs, music or just randomly. That's not all life is, though, and people with blinders for consequences and the future are just... well, blind.

Dean Moriarty fails as a romantic character because the absence of even a speck of self-awareness makes him a buffoon instead. He is, as Sal doesn't find out by the grace of god until the book's last pages, a rat. He's doomed and he's dangerous.

That danger is also what takes away his credibility. I refuse to believe that a stone-cold idiot like that would be allowed to live without suffering harsher consequences. Maybe the United States really was more civilized in the 50's, because if somebody behaved like Moriarty does today, he'd wind up beaten in a gutter somewhere.

I digress.

I liked the book -- I did. There's a fun lyricism to it and it reads like the collective fantasy of all straight middle class white males of the last half century. But it just doesn't rise above it's place in history.

As to whether it will continue to rise above the sexism and racism in the future, I really doubt it's preeminence will survive the baby boomers.

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Reading Progress

November 3, 2013 – Started Reading
November 3, 2013 – Shelved
November 22, 2013 – Finished Reading

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