On the Road by Jack Kerouac – Reviewed by Guy Portman
The defining text of The Beat Generation is a largely autobiographical account of the author’s adventures in America and Mexico. The story follows restless protagonist Sal’s various road trips across the country – journeys that revolve less around reaching the destination than the experiences to be had along the way. Escapades entailing drinking, jazz, drugs, countless colourful characters and the endless road itself, are interspersed with spates of low-level employment.
This lifestyle is epitomised by primary travel companion, the hopelessly flawed Dean Moriarty; an energetic and enterprising eccentric, with an insatiable appetite for fun. Embracing life with a reckless abandon, the irresponsible Dean deserts second wife Camille and baby to hit the road, initially joined by first wife Marylou.
The speed of the journey is mirrored by the frenzied pace of the prose. Characterised by its poetic nature and dearth of punctuation, the book bears testimony to the fully evolved spontaneous writing style that was to be the hallmark of Jack Kerouac.
Set against a backdrop of jazz, sex, drugs and poverty, On the Road is a vivid tale, brimming with vitality, in which the author successfully captures the spirit seething beneath 1950s conformity. The story continues to hold resonance today due to its timeless subject matter; freedom.
Whilst this reader appreciated the originality of this iconic work, On the Road is in his humble opinion somewhat overrated. He preferred Maggie Cassidy by the same author.