Saturday, November 19, 2011

On the Road by Jack Kerouac (4 down, 96 to go)

"I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion." ~ Sal Paradise

This is the first time I’ve read On the Road or Jack Kerouac. The novel is the first-person narrative of Sal Paradise, Kerouac’s alter ego, as he takes several road trips across North America in the late 1940s. On the Road is the emblem of the Beat Generation, and Kerouac is one of three icons of Beat Generation writers.

My Rating: 2 of 5 stars


I didn’t dig this book at all….man I didn’t!

What a waste of time. OK, now I know I’ve disliked all four books so far, but I’m really not some sort of snob, trying to show how sophisticated I am by disliking what is popular…I’m really not. There are books coming up that I like, but this isn’t one of them. The line that I quoted at the top of this review is truly emblematic of the book. 

I probably have no right to critique Kerouac, as he is a published author and I am not, but this book seems to offer nothing but Kerouac’s confusion.

I'm willing to bet that somewhere, someone has described this as a book that defines a generation. But it's just hyperbole. At most, it defines a subset of a generation. And for those, who for a season of their lives took a similar road, I get it. I imagine On the Road is a romantic reminder of the era. Overly romantic in my opinion; the lifestyle depicted more often led to ruined or wasted lives than to best-selling novels.

I truly mean no disrespect to Mr. Kerouac. If some personal compulsion urged him to put his life down in writing (it’s semi-autobiographical), I hope it satisfied him. But to anyone that claims this is brilliant literature – it isn’t. I know very enlightened souls will scoff and insist that I just don’t get it, let them scoff. I get it; it’s the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Film Rendition: The 2012 film starring Sam Riley as Sal Paradise, is as pointless as the book.



  1. Love this line: "I get it; it’s the Emperor’s New Clothes." YES. I've never read this book, but it's a wonder how some can see what isn't there, and others cannot see what is...

  2. Hi Joseph,
    I tried reading the Beat Poets but, frankly, they bore me. I'm not a snob either but I think people read books like these because they think it's and erudite and "hip" thing to do. If anybody got anything out of On the Road, I'd like them to tell me exactly what it was and without using cliches or general catch phrases like "it captured an era, man."

    1. Hi Sharon, sorry for the delay in responding. Somehow, I was not receiving notification of comments awaiting approval, and I didn’t see this until now.

      Oh my goodness, thank you for validating my feelings. I feel a little bad disliking something so popular...but really? ugh!


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