On The Road, by Jack Kerouac, is infamous for causing a stir in the 1950s. It follows the philandering of a young man into the underground of America. I loved Catcher In The Rye and the in-depth insights it gave into the main character’s psyche, while he broke away from the expectations of his conservative society. On The Road doesn’t linger long enough to even express whether the narrator was happy or sad. It’s made up of one page events filled with a cacophony of interchangeable characters, each less developed and less memorable than the next. You don’t know their motivation for anything, only that they “go with it” and like to “dig” things. Now I am from a notoriously apathetic generation, but even I can’t relate to these layabouts; even the dullest adolescents have reasons for sitting around in car parks and lacking drive. There is no sense of the atmosphere of the American highway, or the cultural idiosyncrasies of the Hispanic neighborhoods. There’s little insight into the characters’ interaction with, or opinion of, the society in which they exist, beyond a superficial level. Kerouac’s language can only be described as jazz, in that it is unstructured, goes in all directions, runs on and on without form or adequate punctuation, jumps backwards and forwards with no reference point, uses unnecessarily obscure and inconsistent language – at times you need the Oxford dictionary, at others urbandictionary.com – and if you think this has been a long sentence and bulky paragraph, just wait until you read the book, because this collection of the meaningless gibberish drugged beatniks say goes on for 300 pages. I think there is a particular breed of Hipster that would enjoy this book, however, I did not.
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