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September 6th, 2007

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.