39. On The Road by Jack Kerouac (1957) 281 p.
On The Road is yet another of those timeless classics that I’ve been forcing myself to read, slowly crossing them off the printed list from TIME magazine that I have blu-tacked to my bookshelf. I’m reading the ones that look at least somewhat interesting first, and On The Road isn’t exactly boring – just repetitive. It’s a fairly aimless ramble about Kerouac’s alter-ego Sal Paradise wandering around the roads of America with his hero Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady), looking for work, women, friends, fun and spiritual revelation. This is interesting for the first fifty or a hundred pages but rapidly wears out its welcome.
The ultimate vibe I got from this novel is that it’s a watered-down version of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. They’re both watershed counter-cultural novels narrated by the author’s alter-egos, but Fear And Loathing is just better in every way. It’s shorter, more tightly edited, louder, more exciting, and less prone to philosophical rambling. Kerouac will not shut the fuck up about all the meandering mystic bullshit him and Neal Cassady talked about on their beatnik roadtrips, and I just didn’t care. In a way it’s appropriate, because I’m sure the counter-culture revolution of the 60’s was crazier and more exhilarating than that of the 40’s. Am I myself rambling? Is it fair to say that a novel written 20 years later was better than this one? I don’t know or care, because it’s well past midnight and I have work at eight and I just spent two hours straight pushing through the last 90 pages of this book because I wanted it finished. Always a good sign!
Pages: 11, 961