55. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Year Published: 1957
Pages: 307
First Sentence: I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.
Rating: 2/3 (meh)

On the Road by Jack Kerouac | Two Hectobooks


Oh God.

I'm not sure where to begin with this one, so I'll start off with the plot summary for a change.  Sal Paradise is our first person narrator, a college student who has already divorced one wife and lives with his aunt.  He is a writer.  In 1947, a young man named Dean Moriarty drives into Sal's life and brings "the road" with him.  From 1947 to I think 1950, Sal ends up crisscrossing the United States in a sort of mad chase, penniless and under the influence of various substances.  There isn't really a plot at all, really, and although maybe there's some reason why the chapter breaks exist where they are (I pay very little attention to chapter breaks), the book reads exactly the way Jack Kerouac wrote it: as a spooled narrative based more on feeling than anything else.

On the Road has been familiar to me by reputation for quite a long time but I'd never actually picked it up before.  As soon as I did I started to wonder about it, and it became one of the rare List books that I actually sought out additional context on while reading.  Specifically, who the hell is Jack Kerouac and what made him this way?  The other post-WW II books I've read so far have felt more marked by it, and the character of Sal Paradise, who is barely a character and very much the author, seems to have no connection to that experience.

So thanks to Wikipedia I discovered all kinds of cool things about Kerouac: he had French Canadian parents and spoke French, he wrote On the Road in three weeks on an enormous roll of paper, and alcoholism killed him at 47.  Also, he served only eight days of active duty during the Second World War.  I didn't have the energy to learn anything more about the Beat Generation, besides the fact that Dean Moriarty was inspired by a man named Neal Cassady.

I didn't enjoy reading this book.  It's breathless and also pointless, just an exploration of sad white kids being horrible to each other and everyone else, that runs around in circles.  I'm too old and have never been cool or reckless enough to find the ideas expressed in this book appealing. Dean Moriarty and the rest of them strike me as incredibly tragic rather than liberated, although I can see how at that time, they'd be a bit of both things. Both the style and the characters' actions pushed me away.  Dean and Sal are the only two who pop off of the page as anything more than names most of the time, and the women are especially underserved, usually just staring wide-eyed and despairing at the wild actions of the men around them.

I can appreciate that this is an important book in the history of 20th century literature, but I don't feel as if I learned anything from it. Unless the Beat Generation and their philosophies hold a lot of fascination for you, On the Road is pretty skippable.

- - - - -
They rushed down the street together, digging everything in the early way they had, which later became so much sadder and perceptive and blank. But then they danced down the street like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"
- - - - -
A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.
- - - - -
Dean took out other pictures. I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalk of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, or actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road.
- - - - -

Current Distractions, November 2016 Edition


Basically I've failed miserably at NaNoWriMo, watched a terrible reality show called Steampunk'd, and worked on stuff in my house.

In my free time I've been actually struggling through Top 100 books, believe it or not.

This post is short because I have a ton of stuff to do between now and mid-December, so I'm just writing it to get it out of the way. But I have a bunch of posts scheduled for the holidays already, so look forward to that.

First Impressions of Jane Eyre

Way back in my original review of Jane Eyre, I mentioned that I first read it when I was ten years old.

I knew that back then, after that first reading, I used the book for a book report. I'd thought that that book report was long gone, but thanks to my packrat tendencies and the fact that I'm currently trying to deal with the enormous volume of useless paper that I've accumulated over the years, I actually found it again. I have it here to present to you today. I wish I knew what my teacher at the time made of this.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte | Two Hectobooks

What parts of this book seemed real?
The parts of the book that seemed real were the parts when Jane is at Thornfield under the employment of Edward (Rochester). Jane is a governess to Adèle (Varens). I believe it is possible to have such affection for a pupil. Jane (Eyre) is sometimes stern yet she is a good kind governess.

What parts of this book seemed fake or unreal?
One of the parts of this book that seemed fake was the description of Bertha Mason; the author describes her and gives her bloodshot eyes, swelled and dark lips, and purple coloured skin. I don't believe there could be anyone so ugly. Another is the description of Rosamond Oliver; she is too beautiful to be possible; she has picture eyes, long eyelashes, a smooth forehead, oval-like cheeks, sweetly formed lips, a small chin, teeth (very white), and blonde curls.

I'll read this book several more times and get something new from it every time, I'm sure, but it's pretty hilarious to see what made the biggest impression on me as a preteen. Certainly not the love story. I also love that I used two semi-colons.

And here's a character profile of Jane from the same book report:

Describe the character in the book. Tell what you think the character looked like.
She has hazel-coloured hair and green eyes. She was quite short because she is said to be small throughout most of the book.

What kind of personality did this character have?
At the beginning of the book Jane is place-less, is unloved, and dependent. Towards the end she changes and becomes independent also a loved and loving woman. Jane is quite confident in herself and she shows this first when she is 10 and argues with Mrs. Reed (child to adult) and second when she argues with St. John and Mr. Rochester.

What did the character do that you admire?
She left Mr. Rochester after she found out that he had an insane wife. Jane sets out on foot without money or food for four days.