Sunday, 26 June 2011

On the Road (Book Review)


Book: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Reason to Read: June Book Selection for the Book to Film Club, and just 'one of those' that is on many to-read lists.

On the Road
was a huge challenge to get through, and if it wasn't for the Book to Film Club I would have stopped reading it pretty soon after starting. I will admit that at about the half way point I sped-read the remaining half, which didn't feel all that different from the first half. I sense that it must be very much 'of it's time' and represent ideas and experience that people may want to have, but it just didn't do anything for me.

The book follows Sal and his friend Dean in the 1940's who have several cross country adventures (and misadventures) around the US. Sal is the protagonist, but it feels like he always puts himself in the shadow of Dean, and in a way I always felt the book put itself in the shadow of something else. The focus and energy is almost about what they could be doing or would be doing, and rarely enjoyed what they were actually doing. They seemed to want crazy experiences, but then when they had them never seemed to be happy - at least Sal, as the book is from his perspective. I also felt like they were presented as friends, but they weren't really even nice to each other. It was all about chasing the dream, and I prefer stories about living the dream.

Oddly, the book was pretty much as I expected. I had hoped to connect to it more but in all honestly it's not a book for me - I'm sure I'm not the target market and I doubt any woman is. It's easily the most male of the titles on the Book to Film Club and although I always try to see things from different perspectives and I find reading is a great way to understand different people and different points of view, but in this I couldn't find any way to relate and eventually became disinterested.

I will give it that the casting for the film is absolutely perfect with Sam Riley (Control, Franklyn) as Sal and Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy, Country Strong) as Dean. No real comment to the casting of the women in the film, although I like both Kristen Stewart and Kirsten Dunst but the women characters seemed so undimensional I could barely tell one from another. The film version is directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries, Central Station) and a specific release date is still to be confirmed, but it still is listed at 2011. I'll keep you up to date when we get confirmation of a release date and I'll certainly see it being the completist that I am and loving the cast, but that's the draw for me over the subject or story.


Suzie Ridler said...

Oh I just could never tackle this one Shannon, I know i would hate it but good for trying and persevering, you are a more dedicated reader than I am, LOL. I suppose their pursuits of insanity were more from an intellectual perspective but I always got a sense of alienating self-indulgence from this story. You have helped me decide to let this one go, thank you!

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Wow, I totally thought you would have read this one Suzie! I can't imagine you'd like it though - self-indulgent is high but also there is a weird air of wallowing that didn't jive with me. And also there was a sense that the main goal was to have no goal and just to take things as they come. Totally didn't work for pro-active, goal-centric me! Ah well, I gave it a go!

Kerry said...

Suzie "alienating self-indulgence" is a perfect turn of phrase for this book!

Shannon I was talking to my friends about the book this weekend and one of them (a guy) said it's a man's book too, interesting.

As I was reading it I wondered if the wallowing air was because it was the late 40s and WW2 had just ended, it seemed like people who had been through that would be a little aimless and maybe want to wallow a bit. I wondered if their experiences during the war really gave them a perspective that caused them to let life go by them a bit...if that makes sense. I enjoyed the book but did find it repetitive in the second half and it was more of a slog through the end. I'm glad I finally finished it though! I tried in my 20s but didn't make it through so thanks for that!!

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