Thursday, 2 October 2014

Inferior Book Group #9:

Well, well, well - it's been a little while since the official Inferior Design Book Group last met, hasn't it?  Life (well, mostly uni, if I'm honest) definitely got in the way of my reading time between May and August, but since I've had more time to myself this month I've finally managed to finish what should have been June's book: On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

While I've read all of On the Road, I'm not sure I've exactly processed it yet.  For anyone who might not know, Jack Kerouac was a member of the 'Beat Generation', along with writers like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, and his style tends to lean more towards dense poetry than straightforward story telling.

Based on Kerouac's own life and travels, On the Road (which is set over the course of several years) follows narrator Sal Paradise and a whole host of supporting characters as they repeatedly travel from one side of 1950s America to the other.

Source: here

When I first started reading On the Road, I was surprised by the number of people who told me how much they disliked it.  In fact, I don’t think a single one of my friends or family had a good word to say about this book!  Their collective grievance seemed to lie with the novel’s ‘stream of thought’ narration, but Kerouac’s 'spontaneous prose' writing style didn’t really bother me.  In the beginning, at least, I actually found the story fairly easy to follow and understand, despite the occasional philosophical tangent and a few unfamiliar turns of phrase.  (Amusingly, Kerouac uses the phrase 'hipster' quite a lot, but apparently 1950s hipsters are slightly different to today's equivalent!)

Ironically, much like during a real road trip, the further I got through On the Road, the more bored and irritated I grew with it.  Sal’s travel stories became repetitive and his confusing, abstract metaphors longer, while I found his partner in crime, Dean Moriarty, to be a fairly insufferable character throughout.  To be frank, Dean is a terrible friend and a fairly awful human being - I can’t understand why Sal would hang on his every word for so long!

That being said, I did really enjoy the majority of On the Road, and it was fun to read about Sal’s USA road trips in the run up to my own.  Kerouac's endless descriptions of bustling cities and peaceful countryside (even in a different time period) made me really excited to experience parts of it for myself, and may even have encouraged me to commit to road tripping between New York and Boston in the first place!

The next book on my list (which I've had ready and waiting for months now!) is the true story of Orange is the New Black.  The TV show is based on this book, so I'm excited to find out how many events really happened.

Read May's review here: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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