On the Road Down

I finished On the Road a few days ago and have actually started the next book on my list but have been lax about writing blog posts; hey I have DVR shows to catch up on! I bought the only version of On the Road by Jack Kerouac that I could find in the local Barnes and Noble. This just happened to be the original scroll version; or as the book cover states “The legendary first draft—rougher, wilder, and racier than the 1957 edition”. The Original Scroll edition is like one long story with no paragraph or chapter breaks, which for someone who likes chapter structure in novels so I know where to break for the night, this surprisingly did not bother me. I thought the story flowed well this way, just basically a stream of consciousness type of writing. There were typos, misspellings and even a chunk of text missing at the end where a friend’s dog ate the end of the scroll. All of this added to the book having a very authentic feel, like I just picked this up from Kerouac’s floor and started reading. However, I have no idea how much alike this and the 1957 edition are, which I am sure is what everyone else reading the blog has read. So forgive me if this does not sound like the book you remember and I will probably also have to ask forgiveness for the following opinion.

On the Road was not my favorite book. I found myself at points thinking, “Ugh, when will this be over” and “I cannot stop reading this, it is on my list”: also I never stop reading a book halfway through. More than once I wondered why I was supposed to care about these characters and all of their hitchhiking ways and drug habits. The characters just seemed to be meandering and having no direction, which I think is the point, but it kind of drove me crazy. There were parts of the book that I really liked and found myself sad when those parts were over, because then I got back to the things that bored me. Thinking back and analyzing the story, I enjoyed the parts that had a character staying in a certain place for a longer amount of time. This allowed the time for some character development, rather than jumping from thing to thing and person to person. To me it seems that most of the minor characters have more development than the main characters. Maybe this is because Kerouac was too close to the main characters to describe them properly. He was so used to being around these people and knowing their quirks that he fails to give his reader a clear picture of them. Which leads me to not care about them as much as I could and wishing for a better story altogether.

I am aware that this is not the popular opinion about this book. On the Roadconsistently ends up on best book lists and top books to read lists, but for me it fell short. I so wanted to like this novel. I was actually very excited to start reading it after hearing great things about it for so long. However, it did not live up to my expectations and made me think that maybe it was just the cool thing to say, “I really love Kerouac”.  Never one to judge an author on one piece of work, I will have to try more of his writing before sticking to this judgment, but after my 100 in 365 challenge.  For now I am on to Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

- Corrine

Stephen Gosling