On the Road

by Jack Kerouac

I LOVE THIS BOOK. That I got through both high school and college without ever reading it, I consider a tragedy. That I am coming across it at this point in my life, however, I consider a blessing. It is one of those magical reads that will always feel like it was written just for you and will always come at just the right time. (I daresay my life would've turned out differently had I gotten my hands on it earlier.) In On the Road, Jack Kerouac at once illuminates an era, breaks ground stylistically, and validates my feelings! All in a single book! Amazing. I have such warm feelings for this novel. If you're out there, and you haven't read it, take a tip from Classic Bitch: On the Road is mandatory if you want to know or feel or understand anything of life!

On the Road tells the thinly fictionalized traveling adventures—and the times in between—of Beat Generation luminaries Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac, disguised respectively as main character "Dean Moriarty" and the book's narrator, "Sal Paradise." (That's them adorning my book's cover on the Classic Bitch home page.) Some publishers in fact rejected earlier versions of the book because they very realistically feared libel suits. But the author worked & reworked the manuscript for years until the characters and escapades achieved a form of relatively plausible deniability. Kerouac always threatened to reveal the true identity of every character in all of his books, publishing unveiled editions of them before his own life was over, but his death at age 47 meant he never got the chance. It seems hardly necessary where On the Road is concerned, as you can find the likes of Allen Ginsberg & William Burroughs in the pages here quite easily, though their names have been changed.

But who cares about all that? Perhaps it's just name dropping anyway. Besides, the true greatness of this book is unaffected by whether or not you are familiar with these real-life players as a part of modern history. Instead, it may have far more to do with whether or not you accept Jack Kerouac's explanation that the "beat" in "Beat Generation" is actually short for "beatific," and that The Road is at its heart a religious experience. The reader must also appreciate, or come to appreciate, The Road as so much more than that literal stretch of blacktop that physically leads us places—although to be sure, The Road is that.

This book demonstrates at every turn that to move is a "noble function," validating my own love of The Road and validating that some people fall in love with people, and some people fall in love with places. I have always been the latter. After reading Jack Kerouac's take on it all, perhaps nothing is wrong with me...