On the road is a book by Jack Kerouac
, it is considered his finest work and he struggled through-out his life to recapture that spark.
The book was written and takes place after the turn of the century and is a semi-factual account of the author’s, in the guise of Sal Paradise, various travels across America. A strange mix of excitement, despair, love and loneliness, of friends passing each other in the night on their lonely pilgrimages across the country.
At other times it describes the simple pleasure of sleeping out or the way in which the pie got lighter and the ice-cream scoop larger the further south he travelled.
The book contains a strange collection of characters, from the party crowds of New York and the shuffling manic philosopher that is Carlo Marx, to the junkie Old Bull Lee happily married with two loving kids. It would probably be true to say that the focus of the novel is Dean Moriarty, described as a American hero-saint and an unholy innocent. We watch as he rushes across America desperate to absorb and take in every detail and experience. Driving at a 100 mph for days at a time, rushing from girl to girl, abandoning his friends in strange cities, and returning days later to pick them up and off they dash to new pastures.
We only see fragments of this unholy pilgrimage as Sal is seldom with Dean for long. You find yourself desperate for Sal to met up with him again so you can glimpse another snapshot of Dean's slow descent into madness and his “rebirth” in a almost angelic form. People view him almost like the local village drunk, a kind of fondness for this strange fixture, his obvious madness is accepted.
The final journey is a mad rush to Mexico city with Dean which ultimately ends in Sal being left behind as Dean U-turns on arrival and heads back to New York. The book is filled with a manic energy but at the same time a fragility as you know it can’t last forever and eventually reality must catch up. The ending leaves you wondering what will become of Dean and whether he can survive in this world.
I later found out that Neal Cassady (the person represented by Dean), went on to join the Merry Pranksters a major player in the acid movement. The book also contains some of the finest writings about music that I’ve read.
In summery I could call it a “fear and loathing in Las Vegas” with mad people instead of drugs but it doesn’t do it justice. I'd call it a study of friendship and longing, truly a great book.