On The Road

Title: On The Road Author: Jack Kerouac
Pages: 307 Genre: Semi Memoir
Recommended to: Wanderlusters
Song: I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2

Synopsis: Kerouac’s semi-memoir of transiency and free love wanders around more than America; it reaches to find a deeper meaning in life.

Taking a road trip is one of the most American things you can do. Joining Jack Kerouac on his great American journey was all-at-once liberating and saddening for me. The open road does inspire great possibilities for an exciting life, a life which main character Dean lives with gusto. But what you leave behind? Well, that’s important too.

The movie trailer sums up the book pretty well:

The most popular take away from this book seems to be that the characters had a burning passion to live the hell out of life. I suppose that’s what it feels like to be constantly high on sex, drugs and the adrenaline rush of finding your next bed, your next cigarette or your next meal.

For this introvert, it was hard to find comfort, meaning or even happiness on the road with Sal and Dean.

Compassion

I do admire the innate compassion Sal (a.k.a. Jack Kerouac) shows toward the people he meets on the road. He wants to see people for who they are. While he does end up leaving them (when he leaves the Mexican girl and her son it broke my heart), he takes them in fully while he is there.

The Greatest Generation Gone Wild

Given the vague details and the drug hazed filter this story is told through, you get the feeling like this could be happening at any time. I was thinking about Sal and Dean as these directionless loser kids. That is, until I realized that the war Sal references is World War II, and that they are wandering around America in the late 1940s. These guys are the same age as my grandparents. It’s like The Greatest Generation gone wild.

The Road Goes On

Sal and Dean have some great adventures. They meet some great people. They party like it’s 1949 (hold up, it is!). I knew they weren’t going to drive off into the sunset, but I kept waiting for a Thelma and Louise moment.

I had a hard time writing this review. I hated myself for being so judgmental about these people. The road is different for us all, and just because staying in one place and going home to the same man every night makes me happy doesn’t mean everyone else wants this. We all search for meaning and purpose in our own ways and that is totally, completely okay.

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