I’m unsure as to whether I can really call reading On the Road while stationed and working in one place ‘on the road’, but I was away from home so I’m going to claim that it counts.
It was funny; while I was reading it, I didn’t think On the Road had had any effect on me other than providing some enjoyment and making me feel frustrated with Sal (just get away from Dean, for God’s sake Paradise!) But following the end of camp I spent two weeks on a road trip and, bizarrely, I started wanting to experience the thrills Sal Paradise had travelling with Dean Moriarty. I wanted to experience that kind of wild thrill, that electric excitement, that’s possible only when your with someone who’s on another plane of energy and is willing to live life freely, be damned the consequences.
Dean is a character I loved to hate. In the book he came off as so insincere, for me at least. I didn’t believe in how he could feel life the way he did, feeding off the jazz and the excitement of being selfish; it was a show, a cry for attention. Any time Sal got back together with him I groaned for this naive individual who couldn’t see that his idol was so selfish and unthinking and shallow. However, some time after reading the book – and I’m talking months after – Dean starts to seem like someone you would maybe follow, even if only for a day or two. It could be almost automatic. Because even if his love for life is fake it must be amazing to be around someone who just let’s go and doesn’t care, when usually there is so much to do and think about.
It is a book that lures you out of your everyday life, making you want to travel crazily just as they did. You want to rent a car and do their crazy route across America. When I was doing my two week road trip I felt slightly disgusted and disappointed in myself that I couldn’t drive for 24-hours straight like Dean could.
Maybe that’s the true latch of On the Road. Despite knowing that Dean’s crazy and will leave you dying at the side of the road (or in Mexico) if the circumstances suited, we all want to be a bit crazier, a little more selfish. We want to be able to throw off everything and do stupid stuff just like Dean, in spite of the fact that being an accomplice – Sal’s role – can be so very dangerous.
(Sidenote: A book that I really read while actually on the road was All the President’s Men, which some may know from the screen adaptation starring Robert Redford and Dennis Hoffman. It’s about two journalists journey uncovering the Watergate scandal and coverup and it really is a very good read and highly recommended. I also reread Catch-22. Damn. That book is even better than I remember it.)