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Monday, March 1, 2010

On The Road

On The Road
by Jack Kerouac
audiobook: 11.25 hours

first published in 1951



*** About the Book ***

This semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of Sal Paradise and his friend Dean Moriarty as the travel the US in the post-World War II years. They two men are in search of “it”, whatever “it” turns out to be. They hitchhike and borrow their way from coast to coast over and over again, meeting people and having adventures along the way. The book provides stereotypical examples of the beat generation.


*** Why I Read It ***

(Ok, so I "listened" to it ... whatever.)

This book was mentioned on the TV show LOST, so it works for the LOST Books Challenge. It is also on the 1,001-books-to-read-before-you-die list, so it works for the 1% Well Read Challenge.


*** My Thoughts ***

I did NOT like this book AT ALL. I still don’t know what the point of it all was. I didn’t like any of the main characters (in fact, I wanted to smack them most of the time). I didn’t agree with any of their decisions. I thought they were irresponsible and ridiculous. As I listened to the story I kept thinking that while these guys were screwing around avoiding responsibility (and Dean kept abandoning his new babies), my grandmother was trying to come to the US to marry my grandfather, then they were struggling to make a new life together and support their children. It was a rather stark contrast in my mind.

A while back I got into a discussion with a commenter about whether me not liking the characters in a book makes the book less valuable in some way. I wouldn’t say that is true; obviously this book is a classic and many people find it important. The writing itself was entertaining and evocative (and the narration by Alexander Adams was fantastic). I just didn’t find anything to like about this book at all, and therefore it isn’t getting a positive review here on my blog.


*** Relation to LOST ***

The point of this book, in my mind, is that avoiding responsibility and living always “in the moment” can give you a fulfilling life. Not sure if that was what the author was intending to say but that’s what I got out of it. And, of course, I totally disagree with that. Because of my animosity toward this book I didn’t give much thought to the LOST connection. Instead I relied on the internet to tell me what makes this book special to the show.

Here’s what LOSTpedia had to say: “When Ben checks into the hotel in [the episode] The Shape of Things to Come, he uses Dean Moriarty as a pseudonym. Moriarty is a principal character in Kerouac's famous work.”

Seriously?! THAT is why this book is related to LOST?! Ugh. That’s what I get for not looking at LOSTpedia before making my book list …


*** Your Thoughts ***

If you’ve read this book please share your thoughts in the comments. I’d especially like to hear from anyone who likes this book – please let me what makes it so great! [UPDATE: Oh look, I found someone who liked it!]

I couldn’t find any reviews of this book so if you have one post a link and I’ll add it here. I really do want to know what other people think of this book.

25 comments:

Lenore said...

Most women I know hate this book (me included). It seems to be quite popular with men though!

Bibliolatrist said...

This book made me want to punch myself in the face, as it would have been less painful than reading Kerouac. UGH UGH UGH

Allie said...

This is on my list that I am reading and now I am not so excited about it. I am also doing the LOST challenge and so far I am having a hard time finding connections between some of the books I read.
I just finished O Pioneers and the only connection were the character names.

Heather J. said...

Lenore - Hmm, that figures!

Bibliolatrist - I COMPLETELY understand.

Allie - Some of the books I've read for this challenge have had a LOT of significance but others have been complete bombs - at least IMO. If you are looking for books that really have an impact on the show you should read through the descriptions at LOSTpedia and choose books that way. Two I would really recommend are THE ODYSSEY, by Homer, and THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND, by Jules Verne. Homer's book is, of course, very old fashioned, but the audiobook makes it much easier to understand. And that book parallels Desmond & Penny's relationship - yay! The Verne book was one of the inspirations for the entire show so there are lots of little things that relate. I also recommend THE TURN OF THE SCREW, by Henry James - that is a good one!

longbrakeliving said...

I'm not a fan of this one either. I can kind of understand why it considered a classic as it reflects the thoughts and ideals of a particular time-period and culture, but it didn't have any particular significance for me.

Allie said...

I looked a little on the site before choosing, but clearly not close enough. I already read Animal Farm, which was good, as well as O Pioneers. I have The Turn of the Screw on my list, as well as Catch-22, but I might make some changes.

Erika Robuck said...

I adore the beats, but I just take them for what they are. I enjoyed On the Road, but my favorite representation of the group can be found in Alan Ginsburg's poem, Howl. All of the humility, none of the alpha complex.

softdrink said...

I'll just add this to the Books to Don't Bother With list then.

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Dreamybee said...

Some of the characters on Lost spent a lot of time just living in the moment, avoiding responsibility-Sawyer was pretty good at that pre-island. Some, like Rose and Bernard, chose to stay on the island instead of going back to the reality of their previous lives. Does that help any? ;)

Heather J. said...

longbrakeliving - Yes, I can see that as well, but I just plain didn't like it. ;)

Allie - I'm planning to read Catch-22 as well - maybe we should do a read-a-long?!

Erika - yeah yeah yeah, you writers are all the same ... (kidding!)

softdrink - Good idea. :)

safehomehappymom - hello.

Dreamybee - Those are very good! I just couldn't bear to think about the book anymore, hence my lack of conclusions. LOL

Nan said...

I think it is a guy's book, and perhaps just a certain kind of guy. I hated it. In fact, I don't think I really read the whole thing. And you know who else I hate (whispering) Salinger.

And I am sorry to say that I think I'm giving up on LOST. I think it 'jumped the shark.' I just don't care about anyone. I think it is darker and more violent and I just don't like it. Sad but true for me.

Dave said...

It's been a long time since I read the book -- and I'm older, wiser and probably more conservative now -- so I understand your reaction. But I think Kerouac captured the sense of rebellion and aimlessness that a lot of people felt back then. In a sense, it's an older version of "Into the Wild."

Bybee said...

I couldn't imagine why women found Dean sexy. His mannerisms were really strange. The novel was much much better when he was out of it.

John Updike didn't like On The Road, either. He wrote Rabbit, Run as a response. Have you read that one? Great novel with an immensely unsympathetic main character. Wonderful writing.

Beth F said...

I read this one back in the late 60s or early 70s and really liked it. What did I know. It probably just didn't hold up or is a dividing novel. Bybee says the Rabbit series is good but I never could get into those books or Updike either!!!

Heather J. said...

Nan - Shh, I'm not a Salinger fan either ... But how can you give up on LOST?!?!! Especially when it is so close to the end?!?! Give it a few more weeks at least ... you never know, it just might redeem itself.

Dave - That may be true. Can't say that I like it any better knowing that though. ;)

Bybee - I haven't read any Updike at all, but many of the books are on the 1,001 books list so maybe I'll get to it at some point.

Beth - Hmm, maybe if I didn't like this one I WOULD like Updike ... who knows?!

Marjorie said...

I hate the convoluted and impossible to follow TV show, "Lost." It is transparently written by writers who are driven by whim, and for many years they had no answers in terms of where the plot was going. They created mysteries and never solved those mysteries. It is preposterous to mention a classic and a pop TV show in the same sentence. However, I do realize that one of the characters used the name "Dean Moriarty" as a pseudonym, but that's where the connection ends.

"On the Road" is a beautifully written book by the amazing author, Jack Kerouac. It is about his spiritual quest for the meaning of life. He has experiences during his road travels and he is reflective in terms of how those experiences impact him and the world around him. It is not a singularly dimensional work reflecting the author's avoidance of responsibility. Jack Kerouac was a diligent and hard-working writer with a great body of work. His journeys and discoveries became the subject of his later books. He cannot be compared to other people who may have struggled in life. We all choose different paths.

The characters in Kerouac's novels are free spirits. They are great thinkers and they have questions. They write about their ideas in a philosophy and many of them were Buddhists. They had great discussions about life after death. Their writing is layered, nuanced, textured, and filled with subliminal messages.

Jack worked very hard in ways that complemented his chosen lifestyle. He worked in complete isolation one summer as a fire lookout at Hozomeen Mountain in Washington state. And he wrote about that experience in his powerful book "Dharma Bums." I cry when I read Kerouac. I am emotionally moved.

I guess you either "get" Kerouac or you don't. I do. And oh... how I only wish I could have known that man.

Amanda said...

Too funny. I love your honest review. When I met my husband, On the Road was (and maybe still is) his favorite book. So of course, I read it. And I did NOT like it either. I think he was disappointed. He just re-read it and still loved it. I just asked him why and he said he liked the story behind Kerouac writing the book - the whole scroll thing, how it took him a few years to write. He said he liked that America was different back then when you could hitch across the country. And how the character is trying to find his nitch. Hmm. I think it's so odd how men and women have different perceptions. I just remember how awful I thought women were treated. Interesting.

Heather J. said...

Amanda - EXACTLY! It's so funny to me the way that different people get different messages from this book. Apparently I'm getting the "wrong" message ... LOL

J.T. Oldfield said...

I've reviewed it!

http://bibliofreakblog.com/fiction/road-iby-jack-kerouaci/

Heather J. said...

JT - Thanks! I've added your link to my review.

Anonymous said...

I don't know anything about "Lost", but I have read "On The Road" and thought it was great. I think most women would not like this book, especailly when they compare it to their lives, their wants, needs aspirations, etc. Someone once said all young people should go "On The Road" for 6 month or a year and learn about this country and its people. And young people should have "kicks". That's part of what being young is all about. You may have read this book and were disgusted by the idea of free spirts finding out what the world is all about. But other folks think its a terrible waste to go from you parents house, into a marriage, and then raise a family, without ever having been on your own, never having the experience of being a free spirt, traveling and having fun with your pals. A bit of wreckless abandon is one of the wonderful things about being young. If your idea of being young is going from the safety of your parents house, to the safety of a marriage, you've missed a lot! I can see why a person like this would not enjoy "On the Road". On the other hand, this kind of person probaly loves listening to Kenny G cds, and actually believes they are listening to real jazz!

Heather J. said...

Anonymous - Actually, I do think that time spent "on the road" discovering the world and oneself is very valuable and that more people should do it. What I so objected to in this book was Dean's character and the way he continually abandoned his wives and children. There is nothing admirable about that, no matter how you phrase it.

Ms. Smartypants said...

To echo some of the other commenters, I've also noticed that I've run into more men who are fans of the Beat writers than women. This also seems true of Hemmingway.

Personally, I also could hardly stand this book.

Heather J. said...

Ms. Smartypants - so glad I'm not alone on this!

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