A Conversation for Jack Kerouac

On the Road

Post 1


If you're ever going to go on a shoestring jaunt through America for the first time then one vital piece of equipment (apart from a backpack, and a trusty sidekick or two) is a beat up copy of "On the road".

Kerouac is a very descriptive writer, and as his writing style will show you, getting there is half the fun. Make sure you have taken a couple of worthy travel companions, and if there are none available, be sure to make some on the way.

I think that Neal Cassidy was later diagnosed as a manic depressive (though the emphasis is heavily on the word manic). Though travelling in such conditions make a much more pleasant journey when your companion is up for just about anything and just as enthusiastic.

I would guess that if this book was read while not travelling, it would rack you with wanderlust for hitch hiking, driving and the legendary Greyhound bus service.

On the Road

Post 2


I agree with you about the "On the Road" causing feelings of wanderlust. I first read it while in the Army shortly before I got out and it was those feelings of wanderlust that led me to take my time driving across the US. I spent couple weeks driving my VW Van from North Carolina (where I was stationed)to my home in Washington State. I don't think I've ever felt so free in my life. No responsibilities or priorities, no time limit or deadlines, just the road and where it led me. I made the trip alone and I had a blast, but you're right, it would have been twice as interesting with a good traveling companion.
Thanks for reading my entry. I'm glad you enjoyed it. If I ever get around to it I may do one on Neal Cassady as well.

On the Road

Post 3


Has anyone else noticed that "On the Road" is almost a stylistic sequel to "The Catcher in the Rye" I thought Sal was almost exactly as I would imagine a slightly more grown up Holden Caulfield to be, down to the choice of words "Shuffling after..." etc. What do other people think?

On the Road

Post 4


Regarding the observation that Kerouacs "On the Road" read like a more sophisticated Holden Caufield, I'd have to disagree. Holden had too many mental hang-ups ever to aquire the freedom necessary for words and wanderings akin to Jack. Although I do see the similarities; both indecisive, both do a bit of posturing, both antsy and simultaneously stagnant. Both obsessed with drinking. They may be similar, but not enough to be the same person at different stages of life.

On the Road

Post 5


I think you misunderstand what I was trying to say. I was not claiming that Sal actually was a grown up Holden, just that they were similar. On a more serious critical note I'd take issue with your claim that Holden is incapable of the kind of free thinking displayed in "On the Road", on the contrary the philosophical position put forward in "The Catcher in the Rye" is almost identical to that put forward in "OTR"; both are attempts to run away from responsibility and to retain the truthfulness associated with childhood. Do you think it merely a stylistic coincidence that Dean Moriarty more often than not gabbles like a child? Sure, he may be engaged in adult activities like drug taking and adultery, but he does so with an assuredly child-like attitude, unlike that say of Remy Boncoeur who seeks to be the adult, to impress his father and to obtain the trappings of respectability, even if it is through deception. I think if you went back and read both books again you'd appreciate the similiarity I am talking about, and it is not a similarity of anything as tedious as 'character' in it's most bland and descriptive sense, but rather of ideology.

On the Road

Post 6

No O2

I think the difficulty here is the ability to completely realize the facets that characterize the personalities of both Sal and Dean (i.e. Jack and Neal). I would take issue with the idea of Dean gabbling like a child...Neal, when he died of exposure in Mexico, was just used up. Secrecy in fact shrouds his death, as some people around him at that time say he was depressed about his aging etc. I think that while he was wild and footloose, he was not necessarily immature--in fact he was well-travelled, worldly, and motivated. I'm not talking about his trips with Jack and later with the Merry Pranksters (read ELECTRIC KOOL-AID ACID TESTS by Tom Wolfe) but in fact in On the Road, he is revealed to be searching out Jack's companionship because he wanted to be a writer...
Conversly, Jack was NOT footloose and fancy-free, but a stressed, high-strung man whose worries were always at the forefront of his mind. I wouldn't call him free-thinking or without mental hang-ups at all. Now you have to realize that Jack's one of my heroes, but his image in popculture is almost always at odds with his personality as it truly was. I've done a lot more writing on ON THE ROAD in my approved guide entry so if you're interested in my other thoughts on the matter you might look there. In the meantime this article is fantastic and I love people discussing the man...as long as people read On the Road, Dharma Bums, or his other works (or walk past Kerouac Alley in San Fran for that matter, right off of Columbus near Grant if you're in the area) he will be immortal.

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