A New Week (and a new book!) [Four of Sixty-Five]

14 Sep

Judging by the sheer number of books I have read in the past two weeks, it might be easy to tell I currently find myself in a little lull…

While school starts up again in a week and a half, my counterpart is working on a secondary project and will not return to school again until the beginning of next month, giving me three more weeks in which to work on language, tackle ideas for our secondary project, and in general just totally bug my site mates. Oh, and read. Obviously.

While I really do try and keep myself productive for the most part, with our internet problems I haven’t been able to get a solid connection for more it takes to upload this post and quickly scope out my emails.  Seriously, though it is a giant pain in my ass, you cannot believe the free time I have when I’m not putzing around online. I’m not saying I love it, people, but darned if my reading time hasn’t skyrocketed.

That being said, I finished number four in my Sixty-Five Books You Absolutely Positively Must Read in Your Twenties and During Your Peace Corps Service to Better Yourself and Use Time Wisely Challenge (as pulled from this list, inspired by Buzzfeed) in just over a day.

This time, I explored the classic On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

What’s It All About?

I feel kind of weird giving myself license to summarize what is considered one of the greatest classic American stories of all time.

In short, On the Road follows the adventures of Sal Paradise throughout big, beautiful America in the late 1940s and ‘50s. It reads almost like a daily log, tracking Sal’s adventures from hitchhiking to picking up women, to theft on to more women and then more hitchhiking. Throughout his time crossing the nation, Sal introduces a smorgasbord of characters, both lovable and otherwise, painting the scene of his life – and that of many others – in the “beat” generation in the US.

Does it deserve to be one of Sixty-Five Books You Absolutely Positively Must Read in Your Twenties?

As much as it kills me to say it, I give it an up-lilting ‘yeeees?’

I recognize its value, don’t get me wrong. And while I feel a little ridiculous spouting my opinion when the world at large has deemed this one of the Greatest-American-Classic-Tales-of-All-Time-Ever-in-the-History-of-Reading-About-Big- Changing-America, I didn’t enjoy it. (And hey, this is my blog, so I do what I want!)

In fact, I didn’t like it much at all. If I hadn’t committed myself to tackling this crazy awesome challenge, I would have dropped it after page twenty.

At first, I was totally pulled in by the style and the nostalgia. One of the biggest loves in my life is The Great American Roadtrip. Especially sitting on my stoop in my little home in Azerbaijan, I was aching with joy and longing at the descriptions Kerouac uses. The forests in the east, the plains of the Dakotas, the first mountain sightings in Colorado – I was right there with him.  I will say he TRULY does an outstanding narration when it comes to putting you right in the heart of all that is wild and true about America.

What lost me was how unlikable and rotten every character in the story became. I could only take so much racism and homophobia and thievery and domestic violence and adultery and lying and… okay, so you get my picture.

I recognize that this novel may not be about liking the characters; I love me some Nabokov and that man has few relatable, likable protagonists. More than anything, I just found that I didn’t really care what happened to Sal next. It was just too much, “First I did this, and then I did this, and later we did this, and then I did this and then I …” Those moments when he slowed down, I was right there with him! But the rest of the time – meh.

All that complaining aside, as a novel about a man in his twenties, this was pretty fitting. I see why it was included and I did enjoy reading about this type of life during this time in history.   And, yes, we are really different, and that’s what makes it a cool story. My life is capital B Boring comparatively speaking. But if having a fast-paced, rocking, spirited adventure at this time in my life means I need to go get shit-faced in a bar, sleep with a stranger, leave her on the side of the road with her young son, find my wife-beating friend and whine about the miseries of life together, I think I’ll pass.

Any great passages or phrases outlined and loved?

Absolutely.  I totally need to make one of those printed quote box things you see on Pinterest of the following:

What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? –it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the stars.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Overall thoughts and conclusions?

I still think you should give it a shot. It’s a classic for a reason, people! But I say give it a chapter or two. If you aren’t in love with the style and want to meet and see all that Sal meets and sees, then put it away. You got a good taste!

AND with that, let’s go to five.

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2 Responses to “A New Week (and a new book!) [Four of Sixty-Five]”

  1. chrishillauthor September 14, 2013 at 5:14 am #

    I think the problem with On the Road is the prose isn’t great. It’s not the writing so much as the feel of the book, the way it connects with the young and restless, which makes it a classic. Trueman Capote, who was one of the great prose stylists, read On the Road and uttered the immortal line: “That’s not writing, it’s typing.” Couldn’t have put it better myself!

    • livjnelson September 14, 2013 at 5:43 am #

      Love it! I absolutely agree – what a perfect quote!

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