On The Road

15 Aug

Kerouac’s book turns 50 in September and Viking is releasing an anniversary version tomorrow to commemorate half a century since…

Complete bullshit. That’s what this book means to me. It’s a mediocre, diary-style “blog entry” (or series of blog entries) written at best in a juvenile Hemingway-type prose which seems to have captivated 90% of readers with its perceived “freedom and the American way” ra-ra-ra. In fact, I re-read this book three times in my life, to make sure I wasn’t insane. Every time it got worse, and every time I became repulsed at its fame and popularity with the readers. In a way, it’s selling a pipe dream, perhaps 180-degrees from the one against which it’s claiming to rebel (yuppification and consumerism), but nevertheless still a pipe dream of freedom and individualism and “fuck the system, here come we–the bucks, the younguns, the hip and cool, man” rubbish. There has never been freedom on the road. Make no mistake about that. The road always connects difficult points in life and it’s not even a respite, much less salvation. No one finds himself on the road; if he does, he’s delusional and pushing to fit himself into The Script. The only thing one finds on the road is roadkill. So far, I have never met anyone who agrees with me, but so be it.

Neal Cassady as a thinly-disguised Dean Moriarty has got to be the most annoying swine in American literature. Or literature in general. I am conceding here that OTR is part of literature as we know it, so I’ll give you fans that. Kerouac himself was supported by (and lived and died with) his mother during his rough times, so the whole idea of the Dharma Bums goes out the window. No wonder Bukowski was revolted when he was clumped in with the “Beats.” Hank’s mama never sent him money for bus rides when he was low on cash. For those who may not be too familiar with Buk, he lived in a paper/cardboard box in Atlanta, as well as myriad, hellacious rooming houses all throughout the States.

Kerouac ended up dead from alcohol and heroin, living with his mother–as he had all his life–in Florida. Hardly a free spirit. Just a drunk mama’s boy who fucked over everything and most everyone; including his good fortune. Neal Cassady, aka Moriarty, wondered onto some desolate train tracks in Mexico, drunk, and met his final demise there. For a more accurate account of these idiotic boyz to men, you ought to check out Carolyn Cassady’s “Off The Road.” Carolyn was Cassady’s wife who bore his three children and gives a much more lucid account of what life was like in the company of these fast-talking salesmen/bozos.

Out of respect, two years ago I ventured to the library of the University of North Carolina to see on display the gigantic scroll on which OTR was originally typed. There was no moment of epiphany or anything like that. It was what it was. Afterward I went and had a few pints with a friend and didn’t think any more about it.

So Viking won’t be getting my money tomorrow, but it’ll surely snag yours. I’ve heard people place OTR in the same category as Twain’s “Huck Finn” or Steinbeck’s “Grapes.” That always blows me away, the insistent (and persistent) pairing (or tripling) of these diametrically opposed (in relevance, not necessarily subject matter) books. It leaves me shaking my head, sadly.


One Response to “On The Road”

  1. Anonymous 31/08/2007 at 11:36 AM #

    well, I agree with you. I’ve wandered over to total strangers that I’ve spotted, reading OTR, and told them to ditch the garbage and pick up Stienbeck’s Travels with Charley. (feel free to imagine the results. they’ll be spot on)


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