On The Road
(The Original Scroll)
By Jack Kerouac
Viking Penguin Publishing
The concept behind this book intrigued me. I had not read the book On The Road previously, but I had heard of it. I knew it was a story about seizing the moment, living life to the fullest, never missing out on an adventure, etc., etc. Apparently, the edited and published version included changed names and read more like a fictional novel (at least that's what I gathered from the "Forward" in the book).
So this version, The Original Scroll, reads like a diary and includes the actual names of the character involved. It is written almost as one long train of thought exercise by the author; describing people, places and feelings with heart before rapidly switching to a new story.
Now on to the actual story: Kerouac describes a variety of cross-country trips he took over the period of several years in his life. For some reason, Kerouac is fascinated by a certain friend of his, and makes several of these random trips for the sole purpose of finding "Neal." Neal is an interesting character. He is someone your mother has warned you about. He is into just about every single despicable vice known to man (and a few others thrown in for good measure). Not only that, but he seems to be actually crazy. And yet Jack seeks him out like someone seeks out their next drug high. He hitchhikes, nearly starves, begs his mother for money, etc., just to follow some strange quest to "meet up with Neal." Oddly enough, in reading the book, I never quite figured out what magical power Neal had that kept Jack on the hook.
Things I liked: The traveling nature of the story (lots of interesting places in interesting times), the ability of the reader to develop an accurate picture of the characters, and the "Seize the Day!" mentality of the book. Things I didn't like: The rampant drug use (among a variety of other illegal activities), the missing chunks of time within the story, and the despicable behavior of the characters that was treated as "normal" by the author (including the abandonment of several wives along the way).
I may someday read the actual published version of On The Road, just to have the comparison. But for right now, I think I may be a little Kerouac'ed out.