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On the Road

Jack Kerouac's On the Road is, apparently, fifty years old today, and that's okay, even if I hated the whole thing.

I came to the book through a friend who loved it and who had good taste in literature, and because I had, in some way, convinced myself that because I liked Charles Bukowski, I'd get along well with Kerouac. Somewhere along the line, I had heard that the two shared the same Beat movement, though I doubt that Bukowski spent much time with any of the writers. Once I had actual read the work, I'd probably be prepared to sit down and argue that Bukowski's relation to the Beats was slight at best, but literary movements have always been a bit like that to me. Still, the connection to William Burroughs was there in the work, so I would have ended up there due to that, I reckon. Either way, I got to Kerouac's book, and I had heard nothing bad about it, and it started with, "I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won't bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead," and that wasn't so bad--though it was then and still is working hard to try and catch my attention, and it only succeeds with the final words of that line--but soon after, the whole thing began to shit itself out and I found myself leaving the book in convenient places to be stolen. No one did. Maybe they knew something I didn't.

If only I had come across the famous line from Truman Capote, in which he says, that "it isn't writing at all; it's typing," I might have been prepared for the book, might have known to ignore my friend's taste, might have spared myself the pain, but I didn't, and I wasn't, and even now I find it to be nothing that resembles writing.

Sometimes you got to read a book to know that, though.

Comments

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(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Sep. 6th, 2007 02:22 am (UTC)
i don't think there's going to be a second turn at kerouac for me. once was, y'know, enough.
nballingrud
Sep. 6th, 2007 02:07 am (UTC)
I thought I was the only one! I never could get into the Beats at all. But then, I don't even like Burroughs.
lucius_t
Sep. 6th, 2007 02:10 am (UTC)
I love snyder, kerouac, ginsberg...

You guys are philistines.
benpeek
Sep. 6th, 2007 02:21 am (UTC)
new literary movement: the philistines.

'we got together cause we all couldn't get into kerouac. that was what bonded us.'

heh.

though i like ginsberg.
nballingrud
Sep. 6th, 2007 03:04 am (UTC)
Buncha Henry Miller wannabes ... :)
lucius_t
Sep. 6th, 2007 03:28 am (UTC)
if you never got into them, how can u judge?
nballingrud
Sep. 6th, 2007 04:03 am (UTC)
I read On the Road and didn't like it. I never tried to read more. And to be honest I haven't read Snyder and I'm actually fond of some Ginsburg. So basically I'm talking out of my ass here.

But I've sampled some Beat anthologies, (which probably means I have read some Snyder, actually), and I'm put off by the general aesthetic. The Eastern mysticism shtick bothers me, as does mysticism in general. I realize that's a poor basis from which to dismiss an entire category of writing, and when challenged I'll cop to it. But I've managed to build a prejudice against the Beats, and in order to take it down I'll have to use a hammer and chisel and work patiently at it. Maybe I'll do that sometime in the future; but not now.
lucius_t
Sep. 6th, 2007 04:45 am (UTC)
I like Snyder's poetry, esp his translations from the Japanese.
benpeek
Sep. 6th, 2007 02:22 am (UTC)
burroughs is cool, though hugely hit and miss. stuff like NOVA EXPRESS is the things i dig.
lucius_t
Sep. 6th, 2007 03:29 am (UTC)
Kerouac's first novel might be more to your tastes....
benpeek
Sep. 6th, 2007 03:38 am (UTC)
what's that one?
lucius_t
Sep. 6th, 2007 04:43 am (UTC)
the town and the city.

Actually I like Kerouac. I don't think he's all that as a writer, but he was a figure, like Hemmingway, who was seminal...and I enjoy reading some of his incidental works.
benpeek
Sep. 6th, 2007 04:49 am (UTC)
i find him interesting as a figure, especially the almost mythic like quality he has. i like hemingway in the same fashion, though i do like some of his short fiction.
drasecretcampus
Sep. 6th, 2007 09:44 am (UTC)
I've long thought that if you haven't read it by the time you're 18, it's too late. (I love it, but haven't read it for the best part of twenty years, if not twenty years.) I think Desolation Angels and Big Sur are his best, although Visions of Cody is pretty good.
benpeek
Sep. 6th, 2007 10:48 pm (UTC)
yeah, i tend to think the same with on the road. it's a time and a place book. it really has put me off the rest of his work, tho. perhaps i'll find myself in a position to give it a go again.
ironed_orchid
Sep. 6th, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
I could never read Kerouac. But I loved Move Underground. I think that voice is easier to stomach when Cthulhu is involved.
benpeek
Sep. 6th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC)
yeah, MOVE UNDER GROUND was cool. oddly enough, i don't really like lovecraft's cthulhu fiction either--in fact, i may dislike it more than ON THE ROAD.

weird, hey?
(no subject) - brendanconnell.wordpress.com - Sep. 6th, 2007 03:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
benpeek
Sep. 6th, 2007 10:50 pm (UTC)
yeah, i don't consider burroughs much of a beat, either. though i suppose you can argue JUNKY and QUEER fall into the work...
(Anonymous)
Sep. 7th, 2007 12:36 am (UTC)
sometimes, you got to read a PAGE before you know that.

that's about how far i got with on the road before a loud "DICK!" came out of my brain and I never picked it up again.

sometimes i am so quick to judge!

and other times not! bahahaha.
benpeek
Sep. 7th, 2007 02:23 am (UTC)
thanks for sharing, anonymous ;)
(Anonymous)
Sep. 7th, 2007 10:39 am (UTC)
kerouac
I had a much older boyfriend, and he said you had to be growing up in oz in the 1950s to appreciate just how rad Kerouac was. I thought it was just a bunch of spoilt guys with too much cheap petrol. He didn't like me saying that. Lucy Sussex
benpeek
Sep. 7th, 2007 10:42 am (UTC)
Re: kerouac
for shame that we all didn't grow up in the fifties, huh? ;)
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Sep. 9th, 2007 09:54 am (UTC)
yeah, but you know it's what i love bout you ;)
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