I first read On The Road by Jack Kerouac about 25 years ago and earlier this spring, on a whim I picked up a copy of the book at a local bookstore to read it again.
Kerouac was an American novelist and poet part of the Beat Generation. The popular literary movement explored and influenced American culture and politics following WWII with most of their work published in the 1950s. Kerouac’s novel, originally published in 1957, is a narrative of his travels criss-crossing the United States.
What attracts me to the book is the firsthand account of a time many refer to as America’s Golden Age. The eternally popular musical, Grease, pays tribute to this period and pop icons like Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, and Frank Sinatra still have an aura of romance and glamour about them. Baby Boomers have romanticized this time in America, but Kerouac’s story is decidedly unglamourous and filled with some fairly unsavory characters. His gritty narrations are full of sex, alcohol, and drugs and stand in stark contrast to life at Rydell High.
Reading this novel for a second time I’m reminded of a profound sense of freedom that I don’t think is part of the American spirit anymore. Kerouac and his friends are filled with a desire to live life on their own terms – free of responsibility, with little regard for social mores of the time, or concern about the future. It is heady stuff to imagine a life so untethered from obligations and antithetical to the Protestant work ethic.
If you’re interested in purchasing this book and open to supporting local bookstores, try one of the links I’ve shared. You’ll be able to order it online in just a couple of clicks. Alternatively, you can check your local library for a copy of this book. Here is a link to the BPL copy for On The Road.