Bite-Sized Book Review: On the Road
Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen, because today’s Bite-Sized Book Review is a classic! Maybe you’ve already read it, maybe you’ve loved it since you were an impressionable 15 year old who wanted nothing more than to hop in a car and just drive, and maybe you’ve been meaning to pick it up forever but never got around to it (like War and Peace, for example, it’s not like it’s going anywhere, right?) Either way, here are five out of the many, many reasons you should grab yourself a copy of the inimitable Jack Kerouac’s On the Road:
1. If you haven’t yet read On the Road, you haven’t experienced an intrinsic part of teenagerhood. The very concept – that it’s possible to pick up whenever you feel like it, leave everything behind, and go on an adventure with your best friends – is the stuff childhood dreams are made of. Add to that a healthy dose of jazz, sexiness, and drug use, and you’ve got the ultimate escapist literature.
2. The characters, Dean Moriarty, Sal Paradise, and Marylou, breathe. Even though they’re crazy and irresponsible and you’d probably kill them out of frustration if you knew them in real life, you care about them, you want to read about what they’ll do next, and you want them to finally be happy.
3. This connection you feel with the characters is probably due to the fact that the novel is extremely autobiographical. Based on Kerouac’s (top image on the right) travels with his his friend Neal Cassady (left), there’s definitely an immediacy and a realism that captures the imagination and makes you think that you too could leave your work and your responsibilities behind.
4. This novel helped define what it meant to be beat in postwar America. If you’re at all interested in that movement or period of time, this book is an absolute must-read. It perfectly captures the rebelliousness and freedom of the Beat Generation, and is the perfect stepping stone before getting into other notables like Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Joyce Johnson.
5. There’s a movie based on the novel in production right now and scheduled for release in 2012. Although it stars everyone’s favourite vampire groupie Kirsten Stewart as Marylou, the film’s sure to be a must-see, so I’d definitely recommend reading (or rereading!) the novel before the new year.
It seems crazy to me to try and summarize so important a novel into five points, but I’ve definitely laid out why I think you should read it, the rest is up to you!