Monday, July 12, 2010

On the Road

It's not easy disliking something everyone else supposedly adores. Perhaps I'm not smart or cool enough to understand, but I'm not going be a coward and deny what I feel. I'm not a huge fan of the "Twilight" series. I hate skinny jeans (admittedly, this is probably because they look horrible on me. Have they gone out of fashion yet?). And perhaps my darkest confession of all, I don't much care for music. That's right, music. I can pretty much take it or leave it.

If I can own up to all that, I certainly can admit to what I think about Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." So here it is: I though it was generally a boring, go-nowhere-while-going-everywhere kinda book. Please understand, I am someone who can appreciate something about nothing--I love both "Seinfeld" and "The Office." Furthermore, I can usually hang with a character driven novel, however this did nothing for me. Here is a mostly true story about a bunch of drug using, alcoholic philanderers road tripping across America, which, on second thought, sounds like the basis of a fun and interesting novel. Despite the promise of something great, I couldn't help feeling some important component was missing. In fact, I fell asleep five times while reading it (which is three times more than the average book I read).
Side note: I learned in physio psych class that you should not read in bed unless you want to fall asleep since your body automatically associates laying in bed with sleeping.

I should note, I don't think that "On the Road" is crap by any means. There's a lot I can't appreciate about it given that I wasn't born during the time period in which it was published. Kerouac's writing style and content was undoubtedly ground-breaking and controversial for 1950's America, but 60 years later his slang seems a little off (every time he mentioned "making it" with a girl, I couldn't help but roll my eyes) and his description of smoking a big, fat doobie (or as he says, a "bomber") in Mexico was only mildly amusing and hardly shocking. But according to most, Kerouac was able to brilliantly capture a new, post-war generation. The Beat Generation, as they call it, which I had never even heard of until I read "On the Road." But hey, at least I learned something new.

I also got some insight into hitchhiking, which was the one part of the novel I truly enjoyed. During Kerouac's first trip across the States he relied heavily on thumbing it. He met and saw a lot of interesting characters along the way. I couldn't help but feel that mid-century 20th century America was a wilder, yet more innocent time. Everyone smoked. Men drank beer while driving. Hobos rode on box cars. People hitchhiked. Who does that these days? I wouldn't dare. Books like this and TV shows like "Mad Men" conjure up feelings of nostalgia in me, nostalgia for a time I didn't even belong to and probably wouldn't even want to be a part of (unless, perhaps, I were a man).

Feelings of nostalgia and hitchhiking intrigue aside, I am glad to be finished with the one. Here's hoping that, for me, the movie will prove better than the book. It's in pre-production now and has, ironically enough, cast Bella Swan (i.e. Kristen Stewart) as one of the female supporting roles (Mary Lou). Perhaps I shouldn't get my hopes up too high.

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