"Because of the objections of my early publishers I was not allowed to use the same person's name in each work." — Jack Kerouac
They are almost all gone now, except for the pages of a single book, once called "The Scroll" by author Jack Kerouac (because it was typed on a 120-foot piece of paper). And there it is. On the Road might have turned 50 years old (from the writing), but anyone who reads it today might note the resemblances. Not much has changed. At least, not as much as you think.
In the bleaker period before Americans found the promise of 1950s suburbia, the postwar Beat Generation was in full force. And among them, were some of the most interesting, complex, and conflicted characters who ever crossed the continent.
Yes, yes, Truman Capote might have quipped that Kerouac didn't write a novel but typed one, but Kerouac's unabashed authenticity captured the spirit of a generation. At its center and opposite Kerouac (Sal Paradise) is Neal Leon Cassady (Dean Moriarty) whose influences spanned well beyond his death in 1968.
He was written about by everybody from Hunter S. Thompson to Ken Kesey and immortalized in songs by the Grateful Dead and Tom Waits. But nobody knew him better than Kerouac.
On The Road Is Epically Charged And Unrestrained.
With as much as Kerouac managed to jam in his unsettled and frantic life, it is a wonder he ever had time to write. While he never mentions it in the book, he wrote the details down in small notebooks as he went.
It is packed with the frantic pace that he lived, clunked out details that shift from whatever is in front of him as the landscape rolled by to most of his favorite topics — jazz, promiscuity, drugs, poverty, innocence, innocence lost, and crossing America with virtually nothing. He traveled that way (and back) three times, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends, with the last trip descending deep in Mexico. He never minded.
"Isn't it true that you start your life a sweet child, believing in everything under your father's roof? Then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you know you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome, grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life." — Jack Kerouac
Tucked inside the ramblings of excited youth that often sound aged with experience, Kerouac leaves little bits of wisdom and advice that collectively have changed so many people's lives. One of my favorite parts places Dean and Sal in the back seat of a car, making fun of the people in the front seat.
For all their worries of when they will get someplace, and what will they do, and how they will eat, and where will they stay, and how do they make sure they waste no more time ... they seem remarkably silly wasting all that time on worries when everything they really need in life is right there next to them. There is no better time to think, reflect, talk, and dig each other, strengthening the connection between between two or more people who are right there, right then.
I cannot imagine what either would think today, as people miss half a meal to the importance of checking messages on the cell phone. But that's okay. It's the road we take. Or as Kerouac writes, "What's your road man?" --holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It's an anywhere road for anybody anyhow." No matter where you are, you pick it.
Kerouac's road, given the life he led, was incredibly short or impossibly long if measured in the number of deep connections made. On The Road and many other of his books were all published late, frequently because they were too untamed for his time.
On The Road By Jack Kerouac Carries On With A 9.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
Although On The Road reads like a fiction, his autobiographical adventure is experimental, scandalous, and sympathetic in tone toward minorities. While many people consider it a search for revelation, there are times Kerouac convinced me he was trying to learn how to just be like the jazz greats of his time. But for him, on his road was the only place he could do it. It, for the kicks.
On the Road: The Original Scroll (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) is available on Amazon. But if you want to treat yourself to something equally memorable, consider the On The Road: 50th Anniversary Edition (Unabridged) on iTunes.
Will Patton delivers an impression few will ever follow in that it conveys what Hilary Holladay at at the University of Massachusetts said about Kerouac's work. "And if you read the book closely, you see that sense of loss and sorrow swelling on every page." With Patton, you can actually hear it. It makes me curious if Sam Riley will catch it for the silver screen. Coppola's American Zoetrope began production in August.