David Bowie Reading Challenge #DBowieBooks
I read ON THE ROAD as part of the David Bowie reading challenge #DBowieBooks. David Bowie was an avid reader and I am attempting to read my way through his 100 favourite books. Follow the links below to check out my reviews of the books I’ve read so far.
8. On the Road
When Jack Kerouac’s On the Road first appeared in 1957, readers instantly felt the beat of a new literary rhythm. A fictionalised account of his own journeys across America with his friend Neal Cassady, Kerouac’s beatnik odyssey captured the soul of a generation and changed the landscape of American fiction for ever.
Influenced by Jack London and Thomas Wolfe, Kerouac always wanted to be a writer, but his true voice only emerged when he wrote about his own experiences in On the Road. Leaving a broken marriage behind him, Sal Paradise (Kerouac) joins Dean Moriarty (Cassady), a tearaway and former reform school boy, on a series of journeys that takes them from New York to San Francisco, then south to Mexico. Hitching rides and boarding buses, they enter a world of hobos and drifters, fruit-pickers and migrant families, small towns and wide horizons. Adrift from conventional society, they experience America in the raw: a place where living is hard, but ‘life is holy and every moment is precious’.
With its smoky, jazz-filled atmosphere and its restless, yearning spirit of adventure, On the Road left its mark on the culture of the late 20th century, influencing countless books, films and songs. Kerouac’s prose is remarkable both for its colloquial swing and for the pure lyricism inspired by the American landscape – ‘the backroads, the black-tar roads that curve among the mournful rivers like Susquehanna, Monongahela, old Potomac and Monocacy’. This Folio Society edition is illustrated with evocative photographs of Kerouac and the landscapes of 1950s America. Now acknowledged as a modern classic, On the Road remains a thrilling and poignant story of the road less travelled.
My 5 Star Review
ON THE ROAD is widely considered a classic American novel and has inspired generations of young travellers. Jack Kerouac writes autobiographically about his travel across America from east to west and then down south to Mexico with his rag tag group of beatnik friends in the late 1940s.
Kerouac tells the story of the emerging beat generation and what it means to be beat. He captures the essence of one of the first American post-war counter-cultures through a richly descriptive stream of consciousness narrative style. The way the novel is written reminds me of the crazy kind of drunk conversations you would have at around 3 am at a house party with some guy you’ve never met before. It takes some time to get into this kind of writing style because it jumps around a lot, but I think it was the perfect choice to capture these characters in this specific time and place.
I found ON THE ROAD to be such fascinating modern classic because it so perfectly captures the spirit of the time it was written in and the culture that Kerouac and the characters who inspired the novel helped to create. Post-war America is such an interesting time to me from a sociological perspective. The idea of teenagers and leisure time were first invented during this period, and advertising was also fast becoming a huge part of our lives. The beatniks that Kerouac so passionately describes were also the foundations that inspired many counter-cultures.
About the Author
Jack Kerouac, original name Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, (born March 12, 1922, Lowell, Massachusetts, U.S.—died October 21, 1969, St. Petersburg, Florida), American novelist, poet, and leader of the Beat movement whose most famous book, On the Road (1957), had broad cultural influence before it was recognized for its literary merits. On the Road captured the spirit of its time as no other work of the 20th century had since F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (1925).