Short synopsis and snappy review… The story of friends who travel America in a time of jazz and drugs. It is accredited with being of big significance for the Beat Movement. Two friends, Sal and Moriarty. Very different. Very human. Very complicated. Very enlightening.
The Rest (if you want it)…
Now… I have heard such mixed feelings about this book. I have had the whole “it changed my life” conversation and the “yeahhhh, I didn’t like it” discussion. I have even had people giving me angry speeches about how the characters are awful, how despicable the main character is, etc. etc. I could go on. So when I finally got round to reading the novel, I was not entirely sure which way I would swing. Turns out, I’m part of that first group. I can truly say that it has changed my life.
The whole novel seems to have a specific writing style to it which ensures that no one really leaves the book impassively (if you did… let me know because you are one unique individual!). Jack Kerouc really does inspire passion in the reader, for the better or the worse. He doesn’t shy away from anything that can put his characters in a bad light. It’s like a ‘warts and all’ piece of what life truly is, a mixture of oddities, coincidences, foolishness and mistakes. His characters are not perfect, far from it; they are disturbed. They are seeking something more than what they are or what they can do but they don’t do this in a productive or sensible way. The way the characters are written is not favourable nor is it unfortunate. Kerouc seems to have a true and complex way of writing people that doesn’t allow them to settle into any simple category.
One of my favourite ever fictional characters is Moriarty, the main character in the book. There is something about his absolute drive to live life to the full and experience. To travel and experience everything. He lives and acts in a way that is completely irresponsible and, essentially, selfish. I truly think that many people would be lying if they claimed that they have never wanted to live like that at some point in their life. Moriarty is an extreme personality and no one can really justify his actions in the book but that is part of the beauty of it, at least for me. He is obviously quite a disturbed person but he personifies that desire in us that most of us haven’t given a chance to breathe.
I found the entire novel truly inspiring. It made me want to travel and to experience, to really DO things with my life. Kerouc had the knack of writing complicated people, and this hits the readers in either an uncomfortable way (as it goes against what they believe and how they believe people should act) or they inspire people. This is the main reason why this is one of my favourite books ever. I haven’t found many books or characters that have truly challenged my morals, feelings, the social norm and what I really think about things. When I find these, they prove to be invaluable to me.
However, I do think that this has a lot to do with when I read the book. I read it in my second year of university, when life was great but I couldn’t see beyond the next set of exams. I read the book and had that inexplicable feeling you get when you slowly, very slowly, close the book and have to spend the next five minutes just revelling in the glory of what you just read. It completely changed my perspective and taught me a lot about what I wanted to do and how to do it. So I believe that I read it at the perfect time for me, but I think that if I had read it while I was still at school, for example, it may not have had the same effect. Saying that, I doubt I could ever claim this book as anything short of revolutionary, the fact that it had such a profound effect on me only strengthens this claim.
So to finish this up… On The Road is most definitely worth the read, and even if you don’t love it, you will be able to appreciate the beautiful voice and the lessons behind the story. I have never read anything else by Kerouc but I most definitely would if it gave me even the hundredth of what On The Road gave me. If you find it a little difficult to read, persevere! It will be so worth it. And if not… wellllll…. Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. Which we won’t…
Not so short and snappy… But one day. At least I’m On The Road to getting there! Geddit? 😉