From the Favorites Shelf: “On the Road”

IMG_3457This is the first installment of a series of posts I’m calling “From the Favorites Shelf.” In these posts, I will be writing about the books from my favorites shelf on Goodreads, and I will be sharing a couple of reasons why each book has a place on that shelf. The first book is Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

I first read this book the summer before my freshman year of high school. It blew me away. I read it again for my American Road class in my last year of college and, as I had feared, a majority of the class did not enjoy this book. The sexist and racist tones of the novel (which went right over my head the first time I read this) really turned some people off, so I’m always careful when I talk about this book. I understand what the issue is, but (not to excuse Kerouac in any way) it was the 1950s after all; the criticism is valid, but I still very much value this book. Kerouac was my favorite writer when I was a teenager; I’ve read about 65 percent of his work. In my opinion, Kerouac has better work than “On the Road,” but the books is his most famous for a reason. Here are some of my reasons!

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  1. “On the Road” was the first book that made me look at writing as an art form. His writing is unconventional, to say the least. He’s not the first to go down the stream of consciousness route, but it was the first time I had encountered it. It fit the way I thought and the way I felt about a lot of things, which I had never had happen with other books. Clearly, I disagree with Truman Capote.
  2. The book has characters of color in it, specifically some Mexican characters. This may seem like a dumb reason to love this book so much, but almost all of the books I was reading at this time were written by white Americans about white Americans. The tiny inclusion of characters with the same nationality as mine had a huge affect on me at that age.
  3. Nonconformity is a huge theme in this book. The book goes against the 1950s American consumerist lifestyle that didn’t feel genuine, considering the state of the world at that time, with the fear of communism and such. There is a constant search for “It” in the book, which I’ve come to interpret as a meaning or a reason to live. I’ve connected the theme to my life in a way that has greatly influenced the person I am today.
  4. The book’s “plot” (there isn’t a linear, rising and falling action plot) is unlike anything I’ve still yet to encounter. The characters literally drive all around America, hanging out in jazz clubs, doing drugs, staying up all night talking about books and philosophy and so much more. As a teen, this world was so different than mine, so much more exciting. Now, I see the potential foolishness of the lifestyle, but it’s still appealing to me from time to time.

I’d like know if any of you have read the book and how you feel about it!

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