On The Road

I recently finished Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, the definitive novel of the Beat Generation. In a way, it’s a shame to be reading it at this late date, for it has suffered a bit from the Citizen Kane effect — it does some new and startling things, which are less new and startling now that lots of other people have borrowed from the vocubulary these works originated.

In any case, this sprawling novel centers on the road trips the narrator takes across the continent with friends and the adventures en route. Alternately frenetic, sad, funny, and fevered, it drags you through much of the varied experience of the Beat lifestyle. The most unsatisfying aspect for me was the ending, as Dean Moriarty degenerates and eventually fades from Sal’s life altogether without much explanation — it’s the sadness of parting unexplained.

But overall, the book is worth having under one’s belt as a touchstone of a generation, and is quite enjoyable in its own right.