On the Road :: Week One

Welcome to the On the Road read-a-long! We’re reading this book through June and July. You can see the reading schedule and guidelines on the Starting Post Page.

Week One: Read to Part 1, Chapter 7


Aaaaaand we’re off! Several of us weren’t quite sure what we would think of this book, so I am very curious to hear how it’s turning out for everyone. I am enjoying it (so far) much more than I thought I would. The writing is easy to read; a little reminiscent of Hemingway, no? Though I do find him easier than Hemingway (perhaps because this is a work of fiction rather than the memoir essay style). I appreciate his getting to the point quickly and starting the journey – it has made it kind of exciting to jump right in. How close to real life is this story? I know it was based off of real road trips he took and experiences with friends – but just wondering if anyone knew how closely it was based?

Kerouac is labeled as the person who named the Beat Generation (though not on purpose). Did anyone else notice how often he used “beat” as an adjective? He used it to describe so many things throughout these first seven chapters that it made me smile knowing that he unwittingly named an entire generation of artists this name; it was just his phrase of the moment and I laugh to think of what I could have possibly named generations if accidentally given the chance. (Or worse, what Rachel Zoe would have named a generation… the “I die” generation, anyone?)

I’m actually sad that I didn’t read this as a teenager – I would have LOVED it. Is it just me, or does this feel like the male counterpart to The Bell Jar? Neither of these books were required reading for me in high school, but I managed to discover The Bell Jar and fall in love. It seems that these, as companions, would be the ultimate in teenage summer reading. What’s better for angsty teenage years that books about adventure, new places, crazy-times, and people who are just enough out of the norm to make you realize that you aren’t the only one?

Having said that, I am fully understanding the character of Sal, and remembering what it was like to be younger – to be attracted to the people who “interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time”; and for knowing when someone wasn’t exactly who they were trying to be – but wanting to be around them anyway because at least they were trying. As I’ve gotten older, these people have interested me less – mostly because of what usually happens after the fun wears off, but oh how I remember how exciting these “mad” types of people are and how drawn to them I was like a moth to a flame!

And Dean! “In the West he’d spent a third of his time in the pool hall, a third in jail, and a third in the public library.” Dean would have been KYRPTONITE to me as a teenager or a young twenty-something (oh who am I kidding… as a late twenty-something as well)!

“I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that’s practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious and it was delicious, of course.” If only.

Maybe my favorite line in the book, so far – “…there was nowhere to go but everywhere.” (chapter 4, pg. 26 – in my version).

So, let’s hear it – what’s the consensus for our first week of On the Road?

Who’s Reading Along:

** Please don’t forget to come to this blog each Friday and share your thoughts in the comments section of the weekly On the Road discussion (see below for more information).**

Susan E
JacquelineM (@jackiemania)
June @So_Meow
Jennifer O. (@LitEndeavors)
Ashley J.
Jessica M (@crazylilcuban)
Janice N.
Meg @ A Bookish Affair
Melody (Fingers & Prose)
Jessi (@j_addict)

Friendly Reminders:

  • If you are participating and I don’t have you on this list, please let me know in the comments section. I did not include people who said ‘maybe’ so if you have changed your mind and are definitely reading along with us, let me know so I can add you. Also, if you are not going to be able to join us anymore please let me know and I will take you off the list. 
  • Comments from the previous week’s reading will be closing Thursday afternoon (before the next discussion takes place on Friday). If you would like to be part of the discussion, please remember to comment before then. 
  • Each week, on Friday, share your thoughts about the previous week’s reading. If you are stuck on what to comment about, you can respond to my post or others’ comments. Regardless, you MUST check in each week (two weeks without a response and you will be taken off of the list — see below for details on why). You may have only one “off week” (which may not be the last week of reading for obvious reasons) and still be kept on the list, but you must let me know in the comment section by saying something like, “I’m catching up,” or “I’m still reading.” ***for all week’s discussions please refrain from posting ahead, even if you have read ahead, as to not spoil the book for others***
  • If you are a blogger you may post a link to your blog if you are posting about each of the each week’s reading. If I, or other readers, have extra time we will gladly try to visit your blog; however, you must make sure to share your thoughts here on this blogand be part of the main conversation or your comment will not be counted.
  • If you go for two weeks without commenting in my weekly update comments section, I will assume you are no longer participating and will take you off of the list (*NEW GUIDELINE*, in order to get back onthe list, you need to a.) Have missed no more than two weeks of discussion, b.) Let me know you would like to be on the list again, and c.) consistently be part of the discussion for the next two weeks after requesting to be put back on the list.). This is in no way to be discouraging, but helps to keep the read-a-long organized (and helps me remember who’s completed what read-a-long…there (ahem) might be something fun for different levels of participants at the end of the year! Thanks!

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59 thoughts on “On the Road :: Week One

  1. What a great book to be reading during these sunny summer days. It made me want to jump in the car and take off. No hitchhiking though. I was struck by how trusting the world was in the 1940s – at least for Sal. For him to take off to see the country with only $50 in his pocket, he had to know he could rely on the goodwill of strangers to give him rides.

    I really liked how Kerouac/Sal talked about each of the people he met along the way. With just short descriptions, I felt I could see each person. Also, the way Sal summed up the people who picked him up while hitchhiking and how he felt obligated to talk to each one, gave me a look at the “rules of the road” or the hitchhiking culture of the time. Very interesting.

    I did post about the Read-Along on my blog. It is here: Joyfully Retired/a>

    • I think it’s a little of the naivete of the young, too. I remember going to Montreal, Canada for 2 weeks with something like $200 in the 1990s. I STILL remember that we had nothing but a pound cake to share for the last two days of our trip because we (of course) ran out of money. I was delirious with hunger and sugar.

    • I was thinking the same thing (about the trust)! Can you imagine trying to do that today? Though Jacqueline makes a good point, the younger you are the less you think harm will come your way.

      I do think it was a bit of a different world back then though (if even just because people weren’t as inundated with news). The 24-hour news cycle hadn’t scarred people into thinking the world was a scary, dangerous place where everyone was out to murder them.

  2. Wallace,
    I’m sad I’m not reading along! It sounds like a great summer read. My daughter read the book and loved it, so I’ll borrow her copy and try to read it sometime this summer. In the mean time I’ll read your posts and live vicariously for a while!

    Danette (walkietalkiebookclub)

    P.S. My daughter just bought a t-shirt that says “The prettiest girls in the world live in Des Moines” – Jack Kerouac. She doesn’t live there anymore, but that’s where she lived when she read the book!

    • Haha! What a great t-shirt. When I read that line, I thought of how much Des Moines ladies (who read it) probably swooned about that when this book got big!

      (If you want to read with us you can still join… just let me know and I’ll add you to the list, it wouldn’t be hard to catch up at the moment. Otherwise, feel free to chime in when you want!)

  3. I would call it an…expressionistic…true account. Dean is Neal Cassidy, Carlo Marx is Allen Ginsberg, etc.

    I love how he calls things beat – in fact, I love how inventive he is with language. Perhaps my favorite thing about his writing. How he mushes words together to make one, his sentence structure. His use of parentheses. His writing feels so immediate and alive to me! I feel like he is sitting there talking (using his hands and looking me right in the eyes)! His writing was considered pretty experimental at the time. Think about the post war button up American1950s and how odd this whole culture must have appeared.

    (an aside – I did my senior thesis in high school (we did a whole year’s work on one author of our choosing) on Sylvia Plath. I am picturing us both as teenagers reading the Bell Jar in our rooms!)

    I always felt (as the narrator does) that Dean is a bit of a flim-flam man…conscious of it but he likes him anyway, knowing he can learn from him. I would have found Dean interesting but I would have fallen (I have fallen) for the narrator. His gushy heart is so much more on his sleeve.

    I love the mad to talk, mad to live, quote (especially the next part after the one you included: …the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” (omg holy fresh figurative language Jack Kerouac!) but my favorite from this week is:

    “I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was ‘Wow!”

    It shows his vulnerability, his imagination, his want to be a part of something but feeling not quite like he is. Not as articulate as he wants to be. Wow indeed.

    I was a little anxious rereading this one. I’m getting up there in years. Would I relate to the book like I did when I was in my 20s? I do. I relate to the center of it. The seeker of truth and beauty part. The real part. Not the hijinks but the being a big heart in the great world. How do you cope with that? That part. I don’t know that Kerouac found the answer, but he asks the questions in this book.

    • I was wondering which one Ginsberg was supposed to be. Is Burroughs mentioned? I thought he was, but can’t be sure. I wish we had a list!

      I tried to include the preview of the movie (that has the famous mad, mad line in it’s entirety) but WordPress wouldn’t let me. I’ll try again next week… the movie looks really good! As an adult I am not drawn to that type of life (I felt nervous about if I would relate as well), but I’m finding that the part of me who used to crave that madness is still there somewhere to help me find my way into the story. :)

      You did your senior thesis on The Bell Jar?! If I wasn’t sure your probably sick of it, I’d say we should read THAT together. I bet you have some incredible insights.

      • Burroughs comes later. :) I think there’s a list in the Wikipedia entry for the book on what character is what real person.

        I would love to read the Bell Jar again. I literally haven’t picked it up since high school (and I graduated in 1986!)!

    • I would have gone for the narrator, too, with his big heart and openness to experience. Love the Prophet quote and the “mad to live” fireworks. While the writing *seems* straightforward and plain, there are some wonderful images spicing it up.

        • I put you on my spreadsheet as Susan E/ readerlane so that you don’t have to worry about signing each comment. It’s probably because you signed in last time you made a WordPress comment as readerlane. You would probably have to sign out and back in (with a different e-mail address) to get it to do Susan E.

    • I agree, I would have fallen for the narrator, too. I find his open mindedness and willingness to experience the world refreshing. Too many people I know are so stuck in their ways they wouldn’t dream of talking to a stranger or going somewhere new just because.

  4. Hi Wallace. I signed up for the read-along, but I won’t be participating this time after all. I’m trying to make a dent in my TBR pile, and I know if I pick up On the Road for a re-read, I won’t want to put it down! I’ll be following the discussion, though; I can’t wait to see what you guys think of the book as you read through!

    • Ok, thanks for letting me know! We’ll see you for another one – and absolutely feel free to pop in on the discussion when you want to. :)

  5. I seriously love this book so much – Truman Capote once said that this isn’t “writing”, it’s “typing”, but something about the large paragraph stream-of-consciousness writing really appeals to me. It gets me excited for summer, and road-trips, and lord, just to be young. I agree with JacquelineM – his writing draws you in, almost as if you are having a conversation with Kerouac instead of just reading words on a page. I haven’t read this since I was in high school, and while I read and reread The Bell Jar at least twice a year, I was worried that On the Road wouldn’t hold up for me. I was wrong, I am still as enamored with it as I was as a bright-eyed and bushy tailed impressionistic fourteen year old. I remember reading this and feeling like my heart was going to beat right out of my chest, in the middle of my freshman year honors english class.

    I’m also super stoked for the On the Road movie coming out soon, however, I do NOT see Kristen Stewart as MaryLou at all.

    • I find it so funny how so many authors that I love who are contemporaries of each other talk trash about each other! Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens come to mind, too. We won’t even mention what Hemingway said about Fitzgerald. I think Capote is amazing, but do not agree with his (catty – meow!) statement at all. Kerouac’s process was to think and ruminate and journal and almost write the book in his head, then type it all out in a marathon session (which I think makes that sense of immediacy come through). We also have to remember he was very influenced by Jazz. Loose. Improvisational. Unconventional. Expressionistic.

      I’m trying to imagine how OTR could possibly be translated to film, and can’t. How are they going to translate that language to the screen? BUT. Viggo Mortensen is playing Old Bull Lee. He’s such an incredible actor. I may cave and see it just for him.

      • I think they’re using a narrator. I read that Coppola (I think that’s right) has had the rights since 1978 – but it’s taken a long time to figure out how to translate it to film.

    • I read that too (about what Capote said). Honestly, is there anyone he didn’t try to slam besides Babe Paley?

      I can’t wait to see the movie as well. I tried to embed the preview into this post, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t find a release date though. Do you know when it’s coming out?

    • This movie is going to give me anxiety–torn between my vow to never waste my time on KStew again and my strong urge to see the story on film.

      • I agree! I’m always nervous with book-to-screen adaptations, but I’m especially nervous with KStew behind the wheel.

  6. “And this was really the way that my whole road experience began, and the things that were to come are too fantastic not to tell.”

    Yes to the Hemingway! And the Fitzgerald! Could Kerouac have pioneered Hunter S. Thompson’s typing of The Great Gatsby for style absorption? (According to Doug Brinkley “Hunter never really liked Jack Kerouac’s On the Road–he thought the writing was kind of sloppy and romantic and oversentimental…” Hmmm–all things I’m LOVING about it!)
    I’m actually going a little crazy with the highlighter, so enamored am I with Kerouac’s phrasing of EVERY OTHER THING. Oh, you want examples. Yay!

    “a kind of holy lightning I saw flashing from his excitement and his visions…”

    “The whole mad swirl of everything that was to come began then…”

    “digging everything in the early way they had, which later became so much sadder and perceptive and blank.” (OH SO Hemingway…)

    “drowsy doorsteps of afternoon” “stringy boulevard lights” “a wild yea-saying overburst of American joy”
    “the sad music of the merry-go-round” “the wild, lyrical, drizzling air of Nebraska”

    I never would have guessed this to be such a GLORIOUS read. It took America by storm for a reason!

    Oh and Wallace, 41-year-old Neal Cassady (“Dean”) was in total agreement with you about what happens when the fun wears off. The year before he died he pulled a 19-year-old to the side and said “Twenty years of fast living–there’s just not much left, and my kids are all screwed up. Don’t do what I have done.”

    • June is BACK, YAYAYAYAYAYAY! (I love doing read-a-longs with you, Lady June.)

      WOW. Cassady said that? How terribly sad in a way – to realize it so late, but to be introspective enough to realize it at all. It would have almost been a mercy to not notice. I have to remind myself that these people were real, not just characters (which they feel like since many of them were gone before my time and the ones that lived were gone before I knew who they were). Their lives aren’t just entertainment but were their actual experiences here in this world.

      I wish, wish, wish I could have caught a real glimpse of them doing their thing — San Francisco and New York in the 50’s must have been incredible!

      • Wallace, I know what you mean. Not tne same thing, but I got to see Allan Ginsberg at the Dodge Poetry festival a few years before he died. He gave a real performance, but in a very authentic, improvisational way…it was great. Somewhere I have my notes with a not-very-good sketch I did of him… Susan E

  7. I’m so very pleasantly surprised by this book so far! From the first sentence it’s been full of life and fun to read. (Why did I never at look at that first page before? I might have been hooked!) I had so many notions about this book that I’m not finding to be true at all: that it was hard to read, that it was boring and rambling, that it didn’t say anything, and many other half-baked ideas. I’m glad to be proven wrong! I’m really loving the writing; his descriptions are simply fabulous.

    I know that Kerouac resented having this book prized more for its representation of the era than simply for the writing or story in itself – I can understand and sympathize with wanting to be heard and valued – but it is so easy to see why it instantly became heralded for depicting the Beats. More than just telling us the things he did, he somehow imparts all the emotions – the buzz – as well. Of course, that in itself is a tribute to his good writing. :)

    It is strange for me to think that this was the late ’40s…I always placed it a bit later I think. His group, compared to the post-war families that became the quintessential 50s families, are so far removed, so modern (controversially so.) I love the peek at America at the time, with all the people hitching rides and reminiscing about their pasts (how about the 70 year-old and his inventions? loved that).

    • I completely agree with your first paragraph – I felt the EXACT SAME WAY.

      You probably put this later because the book wasn’t published until the late 50’s, and because those writers really got recognition in the 50’s (and 60’s). I feel that way too – and am glad you’ve reminded me that these road trips were happening in the 40’s. I’m trying to compare them to my grandparents, who were in the midwest raising babies and living VERY traditional, republican lives. I honestly wonder if any of them knew who the Beats were. SUCH different cultures going on in this country at this time (more so than usual in that decade), what a sight it must have been for anyone actually paying attention.

    • I definitely agree with your first paragraph too — I always thought of this as something I should read, and I wish I had just picked it up and read the first page, because I was definitely hooked from the start.

  8. While I was reading this first section I found myself referring back to other travel/road trip books I’ve read. I thought a lot about Grapes of Wrath while they were driving through the early west and desert. I also thought about Kingbird Highway which is about Ken Kaufmann traveling through the U.S. to birdwatch. He does a lot of hitchhiking and eating very strange things to survive with his lack of money.

    I think I had started reading this book a few years ago, and oddly I don’t remember much of it at all. I was glad that he jumped into the traveling quickly and it was refreshing that he made a lot of progress. His need to get to Denver was so great that a few hours seemed like a long time to him while waiting for another ride.

    I agree with The Bell Jar reference, although it’s been hard for me to get into the book, probably because Amazon delivered mine late and I’ve been more focused on catching up and posting on time than actually enjoying the piece. I’m sure I’ll warm up to it a bit more now that I’ve caught up.

    My favorite parts so far were:
    1. Riding in the pickup truck with the other hitchhikers. I loved how they messed with each other as well as drinking and making the best of having to lay in a truck for a free ride to L.A.
    2. The man in the diner that exemplified the west to Sal. In chapter 3, page 19, where he laughs and orders a meal and somehow Sal knows that this guy is what the west is about. Then when he gets dropped off in Cayenne it’s ironic how the rich men are ‘playing’ cowboys and Sal just spent time with ‘real’ westerners.
    3. The apple pie and ice cream. I guess out of all the meals he has the apple pie is the most notable. I also loved the fact that it got better as he went more west with the apples sweeter and the ice cream richer.

    (** my apologies if I’m terrible/off the mark with this discussion thing, this is my first book club well ever and so I’m feeling green at this point :) )

      • True, it very well could be becoming less authentic. I think it also begins to show the classes of people in interesting ways. Sal sees the poor hitchhiking to make a living and then sees the rich almost poking fun at someone else’s profession. I could be reading too far into it, but I definitely saw the divide in people in this part.

    • I haven’t read Grapes of Wrath,so I can’t compare. But I love when books tie together like that; it gives you a sense of our changing culture – of which fiction is such a great barometer!

  9. I enjoyed the energy and excitement of the first reading. On the Road reads like a memoir or journal with the anecdotal observations and flow of events. I’m really curious to see what happens now that Sal has finally gotten to Denver. I love the detail of the rain on Bear Mountain and the lure of that straight line on the map which didn’t work out as hoped: “the stupid hearthside idea that it would be wonderful to follow one great red line across America instead of trying various roads and routes. ” And the detail of his Mexican huaraches, “the silliest shoes in America” and the narrator laughing with the men on the truck at them. And sharing his cigarettes with the man and teen from Mississippi…loved how he enthusiastically kept offering his pack and ended up buying them each a pack. I’m wondering though how wide the narrator’s vision will turn out to be– many pages to go, but so far, women characters are few and seem limited in their part in the story.

    • Susan E, I loved these things about the beginning too. How his beginning was a total bust & those silly shoes :) More vulnerability.

      The women thing is something I’m sensitive to as well. Women are really objectified, especially by Dean so far. It’s pretty ugly what he says about his wife.

      • I agree about the way women are described and Dean using his wife for whatever he wants. I think part of it is the way young men are more sex driven, but also it reflects on how women were treated during that time period. I’m not saying it’s good, far from it, it does definitely stick out and I wonder how it will continue to play out for us later.

    • I get the sense that Denver will be a plot point… we’ll somehow jump off from there because he’ll meet up with Dean (and from what I’ve heard, this is really their story isn’t it?).

      I’m expecting women to be treated as side-things in this book. This group of men (in real life) were not known for being gentlemanly nor chivalrous with the women who held romantic places in their lives.

    • In the first paragraph, he notes that he had just split with his wife before the story begins. Perhaps his mind was just on other things? I didn’t notice anything exceptionally offensive about how he talks about women (although I wasn’t looking for it), but that may explain his indifference.

  10. This will be my second time reading this book. I really enjoyed it the first time around but I’m sort of hoping that I will find more to love about it the second time I read it. I think this book is such a good slice of life of what the sort-of philosophy (if you will) was of the Beat generation at the time.

    I kind of wonder why this book was written as a fictional story instead of a memoir of sorts (I had the same thought last time as well). Kerouac lived the same trip that the characters in the books are going on. All of the characters are based on specific people. So why a fiction instead of a memoir? Was it to protect the other characters? Was it to preserve Kerouac’s creative license to change the characters a little bit? Was it to allow Kerouac to say what he wanted and to limit judgement (I’m specifically thinking of the treatment of women in these first couple chapters). I still can’t figure this out.

    • I think it was written as fiction for all of the reasons you stated, and also because it was probably easier to get published as fiction. Memoirs have blasted the publishing industry relatively recently, but I imagine in 1950’s America unless you were a movie star (and maybe not even then) nobody wanted to read your memoir.

    • Earlier this year I read a book that included an interview from LuAnne Henderson (Mary Lu) and it was pretty interesting to hear things from her point of view. She made a comment about not being sure why Jack wrote about the women how he did, because that wasn’t her experience with their interactions…he was always so sincere and genuine in person. She also noted that he was embarrassed to have his friends read about how he described them. Hers was one opinion of several, of course, but I think that it makes sense that Kerouac would want to have the freedom of creative license, as well as preserve his manly macho image. :) I don’t think they were in touch with their feminine sides in that day and age. :D

  11. I’m not sure where the book is going but I like it so far. I purposely did not read much about the book or Kerouac because I did not want to have any preconceived ideas. However, with the little I know about the Beat generation, I was expecting a novel different than the one we’re reading. The narrator seems so innocent and naive. I guess I was expecting depraved drug addicts driving around the country as the plot. Kerouac’s descriptive writing is the kind that makes appreciate it without the writing getting in the way. So far so good.

    • I was expecting the same thing… I’m guessing it might come later though! Haha! I love what you said about Kerouac’s writing – I completely agree.

  12. I’m loving the discussion so far! I haven’t finished reading for week one yet (I started my summer internship and have been crazy busy) but I promise to pop by tomorrow and chime in. I’ve only read a few pages but am already loving Kerouac’s writing.

  13. I feel the same way as most of you! I thought this was something I was supposed to read but might not love. I love it so far. What an adventure and yet he seems so innocent. And the way it’s written is not so rambling to me as it is just like listening to him tell the story in person.

    Everytime he meets someone, I think about my Grandpas in a way I never had before, I don’t think. Even though their lives were so different, this story adds color to that time period in a new way. His descriptions are so beautifully phrased. Also, I’ve gone to a diner already and had apple pie & ice cream. So any excuse to do that is pretty great.

    • I keep thinking about my grandparents as well. They lived in SUCH a different world from these guys. I was talking to my uncle about it yesterday, and he said that even he didn’t know much about these guys until he moved out to New York (from Kansas) after graduating college. I think many places in the US were pretty sheltered still. Weird to think about living in a world where you could be sheltered from anything since now babies know how to play with iPads and iPhones before they can even talk! Talk about change.

  14. I swore I would be more punctual with my thoughts and here it is, already Wednesday.

    I am LOVING this so far. I agree that it is reminiscent of Hemingway. While it does have some darker descriptions (as someone noted above) it doesn’t have that dark undercurrent that Hemingway’s work has. I love the buoyancy of the story, and of Sal’s character.

    What a contrast the first couple of sentences are to the rest of the book! “I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead.” To go from this to an exceptionally vibrant story, so quickly, is fantastic.

    I love the scene on page 4 where they are talking about writing. Always interesting to see that famous, successful writers also have “literary inhibitions and grammatical fears.”

    The passage on page 15, where he wakes up and isn’t sure who or where he is, is wonderful. He really is changing his life, but this constant change seems to be a natural part of him.

    “It was the spirit of the West sitting right next to me. I wished I knew his whole raw life and what the hell he’d been doing all these years besides laughing and yelling like that. Whooee, I told my soul, and the cowboy came back and off we went to Grand Island” (p.19). I love this image of him talking to his soul, as if he and his soul share a moment of appreciation for the West. The idea itself, though, is interesting. This scene reads almost as if he and his soul are in on some joke. It reminds me of the relationship between people and their daemons in Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy.

    Also, this passage reveals the boyish obsession, really, that he has with the West. What is it about the West that is so appealing? Is it the wide open spaces? The unknown? Or was it a cultural thing (of course, Manifest Destiny occurred some time prior…)? Is this a fascination of Sal’s, or one that his generation shares? It’s hard to tell, since he and his group are so outside of the pervasive culture.

    I can’t get over the idea of just picking up and leaving, though. It’s such a foreign idea to me. As someone who plans EVERYTHING, it’s so interesting to see a group of people who just leave their lives behind. Honestly, it gave me a bit of anxiety. As I was reading, my mind was screaming “What about work? Food? Money?” A part of me wishes I had no attachments and were free to just leave.

    I love the image of him riding in the back of the truck with the rest of the hitchhikers, drunk, listening to Mississippi Gene sing. The stars overhead and the vibrancy and happiness he feels are almost overpowering.

    Last thing: his love poem to the waitress is adorable. The way he describes it is fantastic: “It was a little poem about how I wanted her to come and see the night with me” (p. 32). The idea of experiencing the night as something of interest is fascinating. I’m a bit sad that people don’t sit and just BE more often, as this seems to imply (although I’m sure he had far more… athletic interests in mind).

    Overall, I’m loving it!

    • I am definitely the same way about planning — I have always been the kid with the 10 year plan — even if it doesn’t work exactly according to the plan, it makes me feel better having something laid out. My inner planner was simultaneously freaking out for Sal and totally in awe (and a little jealous) of how free he was and how exciting it all seemed!

  15. Reading this first section, I couldn’t get over how well Kerouac could use the written word to tell a story the way someone like the character Sal would have told you if you sat down with him late one night and started asking questions about his past. The style of writing, I think, more than anything in the plot, is what gives me the greatest feeling of connection so far to the book. I have to add, though now, that i when watched the video interview with Kerouac yesterday and discovered that he wrote the entire thing in three weeks, I began to wonder if this “style,” I thought was so carefully sculpted was merely “typing” after all. I am a bit behind right now, but as I read the next set of chapters, I’m going to try to discern my (now more informed) opinion on it all.

    [Also, I am reading along! I didn’t know if we had to comment to the intro post to be included… so I risked it and didn’t in the end. I’d love to be added to the list as this is my first read-a-long, but I understand if it doesn’t work out!]

  16. Okay, I finally got a chance to catch up and I have to say, I am loving Kerouac’s writing! I have had On the Road on my shelf for so long and now I’m bummed that I didn’t read it sooner.

    From the intro to the copy I have, it sounds like the book is pretty close to real life, and I have to say, it sounds like fun! I think I would’ve loved this as a teenager too. I have yet to read The Bell Jar (another one that’s been sitting on the bookshelf unread for far too long — maybe that’ll be my next read…) but I definitely agree that On the Road would have been the perfect summer teenage years book, full of people so much more interesting than I was and having adventures I would’ve killed to be on.

    Side effect of the book — like everyone else, I’m definitely craving apple pie and ice cream!

    I’m completely in love with Kerouac’s writing already. It just has this wonderful pace to it, laid back but still forward-moving, with a really great flow to it. It just sounds like he’s just sitting back and telling a story, and I think that works perfectly with the plot so far. And calling everything “mad” and “beat” just fits perfectly with the personality jumping off the page.

    I’m so glad this gave me a reason to finally pull this one off the shelf and dive in! :)

    • I’m glad you’re all reading with me.. I’ve also had this on the shelf for too long. I’m trying to think of a book to replace the one for the end of this year’s schedule and since Jacqueline said she was game for The Bell Jar, I may just put that one on for December. I’ll keep you posted!

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