book of the month

cover photo scanned by me

September's Book Club Bloggers Book of the Month was chosen by none other than myself. Jack Kerouac's On the Road is a book I read a few years ago but had been meaning to re-read since. Thus why I chose it.

First, let me say that I honestly forgot about the significance of San Francisco in this book! Having just moved to San Francisco myself, I won't lie that it was my favorite thing about this book. I couldn't help but savor the many passages written about its foggy bay, glittering nights, eleven hills, and purple sunsets.

"I suddenly realized I was in California. Warm, palmy air - air you can kiss - and palms. Along the storied Sacramento River on a superhighway; into the hills again; up, down; and suddenly the vast expanse of a bay (it was just before dawn) with the sleepy lights of Frisco festooned across. Over the Oakland Bay Bridge I slept soundly for the first time since Denver; so that I was rudely jolted in the bus station at Market and Fourth into the memory of the fact that I was three thousand two hundred miles form my aunt's house in Paterson, New Jersey. I wandered out like a haggard ghost, and there she was, Frisco - long, bleak streets with trolley wires all shrouded in fog and whiteness."

While I am more than aware of the immense popularity and culture significance of this book, I'm almost afraid to admit that I didn't love it. Don't get me wrong, I didn't not like it, but while I enjoyed the first part of the book, I found that I was tiring of it about halfway through. The initial excitement and thrill of being on the road with the thoughts of Sal Paradise slowly turned monotonous. I also started to wonder if I'm even supposed to like Sal. I don't think I liked his friends; I found Dean Moriarty rather exhausting and annoying. But, am I supposed to like Sal? Is he like his friends or is he different? Or does he only seem likable because he's the narrator?

Yet, I can't completely disregard this book because it had more than its fair share of descriptive imagery:

"...but I preferred reading the American landscape as we went along. Every bump, rise, and stretch in it mystified my longing. In inky night we crossed New Mexico; at gray dawn it was Dalhart, Texas; in the bleak Sunday afternoon we rode through one Oklahoma flat-town after another; at night-fall it was Kansas. The bus roared on."


" As a seaman I used to think of the waves rushing beneath the shell of the ship and the bottomless deeps thereunder - now I could feel the road some twenty inches beneath me, unfurling and flying and hissing at incredible speeds across the groaning continent with that mad Ahab at the wheel."


"And before me was the great raw bulge and bulk of my American continent; somewhere far across, gloomy, crazy New York was throwing up its cloud of dust and brown steam. There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines and emptyheaded..."

And I completely understand the urge to just go... and to keep on going. To live that bohemian lifestyle on the road, to feel that freedom of not knowing what's coming next or where you'll sleep or how you'll get your next meal. I think we all dream about that at some point in our lives, though few of us ever follow through. I enjoyed the wacky adventures and the interesting people that Sal encountered along the way, but it lost its luster after awhile and I found myself growing impatient and wanting it to be over. I enjoyed the book much more when Sal was on the road by himself, which ended up being a far too small portion of his adventure.

You can read the rest of the Book Club Bloggers' reviews here.


Charlotte said...

"But, am I supposed to like Sal? Is he like his friends or is he different? Or does he only seem likable because he's the narrator?"

I wonder about that too. I think, though, we can like Sal, for two reasons. One - we know him. He's the narrator, we get to see more of his thoughts than anyone else's. Two - he's one of the few characters that shows growth. He finds love in the end, while Dean is still stumbling between his three girls. Not a ton of growth, but a little.

I'm sorry you found it tiring. I hope it didn't discourage you too much!

Krystal said...

hmm i have always wanted to read this!

Christianna said...

I kinda like the fact that you didn't love the book that you picked, but that you wanted to give it another shot.

I like that you asked the question about if we were supposed to like Sal! I think he was just like his friends, I never felt bad for him, or like he was smarter then the rest of the bunch. He was just as sad and lonely and miserable. I wasn't a fan.

I'm glad we all stuck in there together and got through this book!

katie said...

mmm...i really liked the frisco parts, too, pulling up mental images of all the places that i knew...we live right by the racetrack that sal and remi go broke at, where they get the ride home from a cop. obviously, this was written pre-bart. =)

Samantha Chu Ramage. said...

i still want to read this book- but i am saving it for when i am actually driving across country, so i can be reading on the road while i am on the road. xoxoox

Monica {bohemian twilight} said...

"but it lost its luster after awhile"

thing is, that's sort of part of it. their lifestyle is about freedom and adventure, but much much more than that. it's really about yearning and grasping for some unknown answer, and that's why it's circular and they never really get anywhere.... but the striving is everything.