Wanderlust Read: On the Road by Jack Kerouac


Kerouac’s On the Road has the combination of a poet’s unrelenting free-form lyricism in blank verse—freed from the contrived structure of traditionally staid writing as well as at least some of the formula of conventional storytelling—with the unapologetic mania of youth untethered, unbound by the pages in the present moment of being On the Road, the terrible and terribly beautiful mania of the sleep-deprived, self-medicating, tramp who’s always looking over the next hidden, but beckoning, horizon: IT’s one part Ginsburg Howl, one part Whitman YAWP, and one part Louis Armstrong. And while some plain and plainly busy folk may complain about the overwrought detail, the unfiltered flow of adjectives and adverbs, as well as the sparse use of periods and paragraph breaks, the breakneck pace of the words spilling on to the page like data populating a phone screen many degrees of magnitude too fast to read in real-time—wouldn’t that be nice, even as amazing as our intuitive thinking can be—wouldn’t it be nice to read as fast as a small computer?—while some may complain about occasionally losing the thread of an extended stream of consciousness thought—there is still something piercing and indelible about the writing….even for those who struggle with the pace and punctuation of the language, Kerouac’s voice still carries the day. The writing still teaches you how to read it. And it’s a great book to take with you on just about any kind of trip but the iconoclastic American cross-country road trip especially for the fresh out of high school or college summer road trip, it’s practically a requirement, somewhere between a how-to guide, traveler’s bible, and a documentary of 1950s American counter-culture. Not everyone during this decade was a suburban-loving, loyalty-oath taking simpleton who eventually succumbed to a utopia-dystopia cognitive dissonance worthy of a Greek tragedy. So many burned bright like a Roman candle bursting forth in an incendiary color display that refuses to recognize how little fuel it has left, refuses to recognize its limitations, that refuses to stop raging against the dying lights of the great minds of their generation destroyed by madness starving hysterical naked……

Kerouac pounded out a few hundred pages of this American literary classic over a couple weeks at a family member’s house. To other writers out there, don’t try this at home….at least not with any expectations of immediate success. I, too, am no Kerouac. But with my wanderlust, I do know enough to read him.


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