By Jack Kerouac, this book is the stuff of legend. First published in 1957, it is hailed as something of a beatnik bible.
I’m reading it at the moment, and I love it. I adore it. It makes me want to hitch-hike across America.
I decided to read it a while ago, after I first read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (though that was for English class). I finally tracked down a copy of my own in the tiny, packed bookshop in my hometown, where they sell books at strangely discounted prices.
Amazon’s blurb for On the Road, if you haven’t read it (and I think an awful lot of people have) is as follows: On The Road, the most famous of Jack Kerouac’s works, is not only the soul of the Beat movement and literature, but one of the most important novels of the century. Like nearly all of Kerouac’s writing, On The Road is thinly fictionalized autobiography, filled with a cast made of Kerouac’s real life friends, lovers, and fellow travelers. Narrated by Sal Paradise, one of Kerouac’s alter-egos, On the Road is a cross-country bohemian odyssey that not only influenced writing in the years since its 1957 publication but penetrated into the deepest levels of American thought and culture.
And, just because I love it so much, I’ll include a quote: He played Verdi operas and pantomimed them in his pyjamas with a great rip down the back. He didn’t give a damn about anything. He is a great scholar who goes reeling down the New York waterfront with original seventeenth-century musical manuscripts under his arm, shouting. He crawls like a big spider through the streets. His excitement blew out of his eyes in stabs of fiendish light. He lisped, he writhed, he flopped, he moaned, he howled, he fell back in despair. He could hardly get a word out, he was so excited with life.
Kerouac’s writing style is unique and I love it. He’s erratic and flighty and slightly neurotic. He has many incidental characters who are richly illustrated and exciting. One of them is described in the above quote, and his name is Rollo Greb. I wish I was like him.