This was an incredible work of fiction.
The book is based upon some of the author’s own experiences as he traveled across America after WW2. It was first published in 1957.
I think I’ve found my favorite author. I’ve never read a book that hits the highs and lows like Kerouac has in this book. There were such amazing insights into the human mind and human experience. These were a couple of my favorite quotes:
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones were mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars in the middle you see the blue center like popping everybody goes ‘Awww!’
For life is holy and every moment is precious
Isn’t it true that you start your life a sweet child believing in everything under your father’s roof? Then comes the day of the laodiceans, when you know you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life.
Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?
He was beat – the root, the soul of Beatific
But they need to worry and betray time with urgencies false and otherwise, purely anxious and whiny, their souls really won’t be at peace unless they can latch on to an established and proven worry and having once found it they assume facial expressions to fit and go with it which is, you see, unhappiness, and all the time it all flies by them and they know it and that too worries them no end.
Anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven, for what’s heaven? What’s earth? All in the mind.
The main character is a man named Sal Paradise, and Sal is on the move. He travels across the country, from New York to San Francisco, several times throughout the book. You get a real feel for Sal’s life and his search for something more, something meaningful, or exciting, but not in a superficial way, like extreme motocross, but in an extremely human way, a connection to life that many never experience while working through the doldrums of Americanism.
Sal (Jack Kerouac) experienced life on his own terms, and he wrote about it. It’s a captivating read.
The only thing I found a little unfortunate was this: the culmination of all Sal’s wants and desires was the freedom to pursue his most base instincts. He was able to do so in Mexico. There, he could smoke weed with impunity, because they grew it out in the open. He could have sex with the under 18 prostitutes while the cops kept guard in front of the brothel. He would get stoned for days and be lost in his own mind. This is happiness? This is what he was searching for his entire life? After experiencing the war, the superficiality of life in America, and this is what he so badly wanted?
It seems hopelessly base. Like the real meaning to all life and the real, sublime desires that the ‘man’ stops us from enjoying through oppressive culture and law can ultimately be found in the desert shangri-la: Las Vegas. That’s it. That’s this man’s heaven. To smoke weed with impunity, have sex with underage prostitutes, and not have any responsibilities put on him. That’s heaven.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the book is a masterpiece, but can’t we do better as a society? Can’t we find a greater, more noble meaning in life than this? Can’t we??
I sure as hell hope so.