Guess how many paragraphs are in On the Road?
I read the version recently released by Penguin Classics that is verbatim from Jack Kerouac’s original 120 ft continuous scroll of paper. He typed the book on this scroll over a 3-week period in April 1951. The book is written in the style referred to as Roman à clef, which Wikipedia defines as “a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction.” In On the Road, Jack Kerouac, the author, is a character in the book. It reads like a non-fiction account, but it’s a novel.
I found the writing to be smooth, engaging, and easy to follow. The subject matter largely consists of Jack and Neal Cassady’s travels across the USA (mostly back and forth between New York City and San Francisco via Denver) and a final trip to Mexico. They were part of the “beat” generation and Jack & Neal pretty much travel across the USA doing drugs, breaking laws, taking in jazz music, and attempting to mate with as many things as possible that walk.
I didn’t like the book enough to recommend it to anyone. There are so many other novels I would have preferred to read. My dislike mostly had to do with the subject matter – the desire to get drunk, high, and laid every conceivable opportunity. I did enjoy the sections about seeing jazz concerts in dives across the USA. Kerouac was able to capture those scenes in a unique and vivid way. I also enjoyed the description of their final trip through Texas into Mexico City. Having been to Mexico a number of times, I enjoyed reading about their travels through the country.
Since the book consisted of one paragraph, I actually missed the breakup of the content into paragraphs. I know it seems silly, but it’s nice having the content broken up as you read it. I’m sure there are versions of the book broken up into paragraphs, but this version was definitely not one of those.
Overall, not a novel that I would read again or recommend, but one that was well-written and memorable.
This is book 20 of 52 of Erik’s 2018 Books of Titans reading list.