Saturday, May 16, 2009

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty travel across the USA more than three times during the 1950's by boosting cars, drinking their lives away and getting together with women and picking up their fair share of hitch-hikers. All the while, Sal has around $10 in his pocket and not much else between his ears; but he's out there to have fun. Part adventure and tour novel, part autobiographical, Jack Kerouac could have done better than to offer such a luke-warm book to the public about his tour with his mate around his home country. I found it was torture to get through and the only time it picked up and got anywhere near interesting was in Part 5 when they went to Mexico. Why he didn't write it in the Mexico style all the way through it beyond me. However it took me 8 months to get through this horribly slow and dreadfully written book of drivel.

When I was younger - in high school in fact - I was first told about this book by my teachers. They said that I had the intellect to be able to read this callibre of literature. However, once I got my hands on it, I found it not to my liking at all and extremely repetitive. I was waiting for Jack to take me somewhere new and interesting; show me some new colourful things and experiences. However, he didn't.

Born in 1922, Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Kerouac; the youngest of three children in the French-Canadian in working class Lowell, Massachusetts. He was an intense and serious child and devoted to his mother and forming important, close friendships with other boys, which he continued to do throughout his life. Jack began writing stories at a very young age, inspired first by a mysterious radio show. As he grew older, he failed at getting into college football, the US Military and felt as though he disappointed his father and so ended up sailing with the Merchant Marine. When he wasn't sailing, he was hanging around New York with a crowd that his parents didn't approve of, including Neal Cassidy, William S Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. Kerouac had already begun writing his first novel and found that his friends love it ('The Town and the City') however, it didn't make him famous. He would suffer seven years of rejection before his next book 'On The Road' was published and made him the money and fame he so badly wanted.
Jack spent the 1950's writing a number of books that never got published and so he carried them around in his rucksack. He excellent novel 'The Dharma Bums' describes a mountain climbing trip he went on at Yosemite with one of his friends.
When 'On The Road' was finally published in 1957, Jack Kerouac was much older and less wild than he was in the book. The fame the book brought after so many years of rejection and bitterness caused him to try and keep up the appearance of what he once was and he developed a severe drinking habit that dimmed his nature spirit and aged him prematurely.
As the years went on, Kerouac moved from California back to New York with his mother where he lived either with or very close to. However, his drinking slowly destroyed him. Even though he kept on writing and being published throughout the late 50's through the 1960's, he became a recluse, married twice; with the third one being successful. However, Kerouac's sudden fame had been the main thing that had destroyed him; along with alcohol. He finally moved back to Lowell with his third wife - Stella - and his mother where he died at home in 1969 at the age of 47.

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