Monday, June 4, 2012

ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

I find that novels written in the 50s, such as this one and Revolutionary Road, date themselves with funky dialog like no other era.  Dialog, though, is not the only period-specific aspect of this iconic semi-autobiographical novel.  Kerouac's fictional name here is Sal Paradise, and his maniacal friend Dean Moriarty stands in for the real Neal Cassady.  These two traverse the country multiple times and finally foray into Mexico so that Dean can get a quickie divorce and marry his third wife.  Their means of transportation varies depending on how much money they have on hand, from GI benefits or short-term odd jobs or the good will of friends and relatives.  If they're flush with cash, they can travel by bus or perhaps even buy a jalopy; otherwise, they hitchhike or join other travelers in a sort of carpool arranged by a travel bureau.  Maybe Kerouac invented this ride-sharing idea for the purpose of the book, because it certainly seems outlandish that anyone would allow these itinerants to drive a Cadillac cross-country.  Wishful thinking, maybe?  I originally read this book in the 70s and don't remember my reaction.  Now that I've reread it, I have to hope that the movie, if it is ever released, will be an improvement, because the nonstop drinking and carousing just didn't make for an appealing story.  Also, there's no plot per se; it's just a drunken-buddies-on the-road saga with exactly zero strong women characters.  I can live with that, but the men are too immature and wayward to inspire much empathy.  I'm not surprised that both Kerouac and Neal Cassady died in their forties.  Theirs was not a healthy lifestyle.

No comments: