A Book Review by Scott Hughes
Jack Kerouac wrote On The Road in April 1951. I recently read this novel. I had the joy of reading an old copy of the book, printed in 1963, with the price printed on the book's cover. $1.45! Nowadays, I probably couldn't buy a coffee at the bookstore for $1.45!
I saw the price difference fitting, as the book details impulsive road trips across the country in the aftermath of World War II. The participants never seemed to have more than 50 bucks at any given time. They lived and partied for days on just a few bucks each.
The fun book gives a great insight into what Jack Kerouac named the "Beat Generation," a small movement of subversive youths, marked by jazz, poetry, and drugs. On The Road entertains with vivid descriptions of the adventures and scenery that the semi-fictional narrator, Sal Paradise, encounters with his semi-fictional friends and co-travelers.
I call the characters "semi-fictional," because Jack Kerouac actually based them on himself and his friends.
Regardless, the characters attempt to live life to the fullest in On The Road. These guys go traveling around the country anyway they can, from hitchhiking to borrowing cars. Although, Sal Paradise narrates the novel, a wild character named Dean Moriarty acts as a catalyst to most of the events in the book. Dean's character in many ways represented the traveling itself. Accordingly, Sal's life on the road correlates with his relationship to Dean.
The traveling characters live in the moment, and the story reflects that. Unfortunately, that leaves little room for deep reflection, which doesn't bother readers who only want a story filled with activity and excitement.
Personally, I didn't think the book lived up to its extraordinary reputation. Nonetheless, I like On The Road very much. I recommend it to anyone with any interest in the Beat Generation or anyone who likes reading about wild journeys.