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Spring... a little traveling music please... I've been out walking and listening to the audio version of "On the Road" (1957) by Jack Kerouac. It's hard to believe I haven't read it already — it's one of those iconic novels that set a generation of hippies off on our road trips.
I had assumed it would be about booze, drugs, and male-bonding — frat house on wheels (which may be why I never read it).
I'm about half-way through it. It's definitely about booze, drugs, and male-bonding. What I wasn't prepared for Kerouac's lack of cynicism. He just goes along, wide-eyed, taking in everything and appreciative of kindness when it's offered to him. He reminds me of my father — everyone he meets is "the greatest." He loves America, from its cities to its dustiest cow towns.
Maybe the tone will change in the second half, but so far it's reminding me of what cynical times we live in. So much popular writing (and spoken commentary) is snarky and sarcastic. Everybody is a the butt of a joke. I love Maureen Dowd, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher — I love their nasty little jibes, their sense of irony. But then I read Kerouac — King of the the Beats, icon of my Age — and he sounds so sweet.
They say it was fame killed Jack Kerouac. He was shy, introverted — a writer after all. The more famous he got, the more he had to drink to get through it all — till he died of an alcohol-induced hemorrhage at 47. Maybe we're cynical now because we can't afford the risk of being sweet.
Jack Kerouac on Wikipedia.
Jack Kerouac on NPR, with photos and audio clips.
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