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Book review

Jack Kerouac, one of the brightest representatives of Beat Generation wrote his book “On the road” within only 3 weeks in 1951 and this novel destined to become a manifesto for the Beat movement is not losing edge even these days. Be careful: reading this book wakes a desire to leave everything to live everything!

The novel is based on the Kerouac trips with his frantic friend Neal Cassidy (who actually introduced a beat writer and a life on the edge, a life on the road to each other and inspired Kerouac on creating this work) across the U.S.A. and Mexico. Sal Paradise (J. Kerouac) and Dean Moriarty (N. Cassidy) fueled by passion, drugs, alcohol, sex, and sounds of be-pop are driving a fully fueled car on the roads of North America looking for the internal and external freedom, beyond any geographical, social, and ethical bounds. You need eventually to overstep the limits to understand their value or quite opposite: the fact that they go for nothing.

Character of Dean Moriarty and Kerouac’s relationships with him are central to the story. He is a hero of his time and the one who gifted The Beats their soul. Cassidy, unconditional lover of the world with his need to move, overwhelming enthusiasm, and insatiable drive ravishes the author. Dean Moriarty: maniac, capable of non-stop car driving from San Francisco to New York, just to meet one friend; saint, able with his behavior and speeches to win over anyone and inspire on any madness. “Having nothing, he is happy, because he has everything”.

Burning the gasoline, Benzedrine, and themselves friends are speeding ahead and nothing can get on their path! Even friendship and love are not sacred: if the road calls you can leave a fellow in sickness and a woman with a small baby to look after. It scarcely can be a rebellion or an appeal; however you can certainly discern in their behavior a transparent unwillingness to accept false values of current capitalist society. More likely, this is a simple love to a lustful life and its pleasures. Furthermore, in most cases it turns out that one of the main reasons making guys put off for a journey, is dullness and mundanity of everyday life, an overwhelming, unrelieved boredom. Quaint characters, night streets, drinking saloons, philosophical talks, and lost souls… Ineffable spirit of freedom… Pictures of that time America with its residents and Sal’s reflections, tremendously honest and sad… The novel is full with human compassion, heart internal grief about every human destiny, loneliness, and at the same time unconditional love for this life. Beat Generation on its way, on its road to no destination. What matters here is a personality, not money and his/her social status. Just as in the novel itself: central to it are characters, not the plot.

Speaking of which… There is no single strand in this narrative as such that should have interfused all the travelers’ adventures: aims of the friends wandering around the country are negligible, and inherently stands only for excuses to hit the road, but there is a strong idea of freedom and clearly hearable rhythm of jazz, which pervades the whole book. Its sounds along with the dead run of the scenario thrill you to the core and set the pace of the reading. Kerouac’s writing style is unique; his goal is to splash the stream of emotions out. How can I convey the atmosphere of heartiness and sponteity of the story? The novel itself is a mere improvisation, a reflection of aspirations and beliefs of an entire generation, which rejects outerly imposed principles and dogmas and values freedom above all.

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