On the RoadBook - 2007
From the critics
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Upon completion of the manuscript for ON THE ROAD, Kerouac delivered it to his publisher on one continuous roll of paper which he'd pounded out on the keys of a typewriter in practically one sitting which in itself is a feat and very Beat approach to writing which you just gotta dig if for nothing else the cat's unique style. The story follows Sal Paradise west from New York to Denver, San Francisco, and eventually south to Mexico, at times in the presence of Dean Moriarty an exalted figure in Sal's eyes with a sketchy past, in pursuit of his father, a seemingly mythical creature always just out of reach, the source of Dean's angst and excuse for his wanderlust: dad's a hobo. Though Sal uses the senior Moriarty as his reason for much of his travels - he sincerely wishes to see the father and son reunited - there's a bromance going on here that cannot be denied, Sal knows it, Dean knows it and it's the underlying tension of it that makes ON THE ROAD a page turner, the tension of longing, the tension that comes from the difference between the idea of Dean Moriarty and the reality of Dean Moriarty, loser, winner, player, dreamer, conspirator, user, and sadly, liability. When plans are made to see Europe together, despite their enthusiasm we just know it's never going to happen for these cats, Dean Moriarty, trapped in his father's legacy is pursued by Sal just as the father is pursued by Dean, wistfully in sight, never within reach. Europe never happens for these cats - no surprise to either of them - how it never happens makes for a great read, but be prepared for run-on sentences.
Perhaps the most famous chronicle of the road trip genre is Jack Kerouac's enduring classic, ON THE ROAD (New American Library, $3.95). Originally published in 1957, it tosses convention on its ear and through a seemingly endless series of run-on sentences put the Beat Generation firmly on the map. Composed of other disenfranchised souls in search of It, Beats reveled in a freaky booze-addled, drug-induced alt-reality that lent to misfits a sense of belonging, altogether divorced of the post-war apocalyptic military-industrial fever quietly sweeping through "respectable" circles of society.
The story follows Sal Paradise in his pursuit west from New York to Denver, then San Francisco, back the other direction and eventually south to Mexico and back, often in the presence of Dean Moriarty a practically god-like figure in Sal's eyes for his checkered past and bold pursuit of self-gratification. Although Dean comes across as a cool cat, by story's end we realize it's a false persona, a band-aid for the father issues he's plagued with.
Maybe more than any other book in American Literature, ON THE ROAD created a subculture movement by exposing and celebrating it. With Woodstock, sixties counterculture was brought mainstream. Kerouac, with ON THE ROAD, did the same for the Beats.
A decent but not outstanding adaptation of Kerouac's novel. This one always seemed too hard to film, and indeed, the end result isn't the best result, but seeing the characters come off the pages and alive is enjoyable and Viggo Mortensen as William S. Burroughs is a scene stealer.
Kerouac wrote most of his famous book on a scroll through his typewriter so he would keep a continuous train of thought. The resulting manuscript is now available here (though, not in scroll form!) to be read as Kerouac originally wrote it, with the names of his fellow "Beat" friends and authors named. It's an exhaustive read but worth it for the fans.
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The ideal bar doesn't exist in America."
-Old Bull, ON THE ROAD, by Jack Kerouac
. . . the junior Moriarty trapped as it were in his father's legacy, [is] pursued by Sal just as his father is pursued by the son, eternally just out of reach.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”
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