La Sera - Break My Heart

Sic Alps - Glyphs

This is Pop Download-o-rama

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hey Jack Kerouac – On the Road Turns 50

Jack Kerouac’s hugely influential book On the Road, celebrates its fiftieth anniversary of publication this month. The seminal work has never disappeared from bookshelves and still has a vibrant existence on university English course syllabuses and high school summer reading lists. The autobiographical, stream of consciousness On the Road follows Sal Paradise (a character based on Kerouac) and Dean Moriarty (based on Kerouac’s friend Neal Cassady) as they ramble back and forth across America, drinking, listening to jazz and having casual affairs. Sordid stuff back then, the book a bible for disconnected dusty backpackers everywhere.

In 1951, Kerouac wrote his first draft of "On the Road" in three weeks on a single huge roll of paper. Contrary to legend, the scroll was not a roll of teletype paper but a series of large sheets of tracing paper that Kerouac cut to fit and taped together. Again contrary to popular literary lore, it is not unpunctuated - merely without paragraph, which makes a certain physical demand on the reader; who is deprived of the usual rest stops. Also contrary to received ideas, Kerouac, by his own admission fueled his work with nothing stronger than coffee. The scroll is slightly longer than the novel as it was finally published, after three subsequent conventionally formatted drafts, in 1957.

On the Road is a dazzling piece of writing for all of its rough edges, and, stripped of affectations that in the novel can sometimes verge on bathos. Gratuitous punctuation, supplied by editors more devoted to rules has made it easier to read but does not do justice to Kerouac’s lyrical bent. The book in all of its versions is the story of a series of cross-country trips made by Kerouac between 1948 and 1950 - "trips" rather than "travels," because they are all about covering ground, whether by hitchhiking, by bus or by car. Essential to the whole enterprise is Kerouac's relationship with Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty), who is one of the greatest characters in American literature without any need for imaginative tinkering on the part of the author. Therein lies its true beauty. This is America's heart and soul laid bare, the results affecting and pure even fifty years later.

Timeless themes and highly creative, I urge everyone to read this book. It will become a part of you.

No comments: