…So therefore I dedicate myself, to my art, my sleep, my dreams, my labors, my suffrances, my loneliness, my unique madness, my endless absorption and hunger because I cannot dedicate myself to any fellow being.
― Jack Kerouac
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On the Road
Completely Kerouac: Searching for America
Few books are written fully in the writer’s voice. Often, the story moves the voice this way or that, or a character demands a tone somewhat different than the real person writing. Not Jack Kerouac in On the Road. I have heard enough clips and interviews that I can only hear Jack reading it. Not ‘Kerouac’. Jack. The book, and the author through it, is that intimate. He is Sal Paradise.
Did everything happen as Sal tells it? Who can say? I doubt it, but Jack believed it could have happened, and for the sake of me believing the book, that’s enough.
Like any road book, this is a collection of adventures. What distinguishes it is the period in which its written. It captures a slice of America and Americana unique in style to the late 1950s and early 1960s. A big revolution was coming, but no one saw it coming. Sal tells about the beginning, before it was the beginning.
The quest is bigger than any book can capture. It uses a lot of coming of age imagery, as well as pushing the limits of that age. The trip is east to west, symbolic of America’s own quest toward a secularized Manifest Destiny.
The lore of the book, like how it was written in a furious rush, can be enough to be interested, but a few pages into it, you will discover this is much more than a curious novel written in an era to be forgotten in the next. This is a classic in the making.
To gain a taste of Jack Kerouac’s poetry and cadence in his prose:
“So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars’ll be out, and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? The evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty.”
I fully recommend “On the Road,” by Jack Kerouac.
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