Friday, November 09, 2007

On The Road

On The Road Cover
Originally uploaded by steakbellie.
I dont read alot, but I read enough to know that I am a slow reader. I jealously watch my wife fan through books in a sitting or two. How can she possibly take the information in that quickly and understand it???? I must be painfully selective in what I read, because it's a committment possibly of weeks or even months to finish a single book. Does it mean I dum? Probably.

My favorite Author is Kurt Vonnegut, although ironically his books probably only rate 4th or 5th with me on most influential. Charles Bukowski means alot to me too. The books that had the greatest impact on my life are: Catch-22, The Bible & On The Road.

If a book can be considered 'Chick Lit' than you can say that Jack Kerouac's On The Road is written for late-teenage-dreamer-boys. Not that you have to be in that group to enjoy it, but that's probably it's most receptive audience. The book is written in a very free style and there's a chance you'll just hate it. I didnt realize until my most recent reading that it had completly effected my writing style all these years since I first read it.

The book is based on a series of Road Trips that Jack Kerouac had taken accross America with his now famous friends: Allen Ginsberg, Neil Cassady, and William S. Burroughs and was published in 1947. All of the names were changed but it's easy to research who's who.

The book also has some myth and legend surrounding it and it's cast. The story goes that Jack Kerouac wrote the book on speed, in a two week period, furiously typing on a single long piece of paper, a scroll.

The Original Maniscript
Originally uploaded by steakbellie.
Most of that is true....well the scroll part anyway. He actually spent many years taking notes and writing small 30 page short stories about the characters. The scroll was the first complete draft of 3 that would be needed between editing and publishing. You can imagine how crazy the publisher must have thought he was to deliver it in a hand typed continuous roll of paper!

For the 50th Aniversary of the published work, they have released the original draft in book form. It is a similar story to the Final, but has the names of the actual people still intact, and has a few additioanl scenes that were omitted because of excessive drug use and some Homosexuality.

For me, the biggest obstacle was that this version is written without paragraph breaks, or even chapter breaks. Each page looks identical, double justified and goes on in one long long stream of consiousness. In regular life I will rarely read anything that doesnt have paragraph breaks, my eyes get lost on the words and pull in too much information at once. Surprisingly, I was able to get through the book anyway, but with alittle more care than usual.

If you havent read 'On The Road' I recommend that you get the final version in papaerback, hop on a bus or train, and go somewhere while you read it. The story remains frantic and beautiful, and will give you a glimpse of that burning blood we had as teenagers....the desire to get out of whatever you were in and never look back.

If your already a fan, than you will find this new version, very interesting as it also contains lots of analysis between the various versions of the story and wordings and some insight into the actual events behind it.

I only regret that I finished it.


Leonesse said...

Thank you. I will.

Chris said...

An odd historical side note: If you go back to ye olden times and compare writing styles to that of, oh, say, the Civil War era, you'll notice that the average paragraph length gets shorter over time. By the Civil War era it was common to have paragraphs that ran several pages, but that was still shorter than what was written before. If you jump ahead to the 1910s or so, you'll see that most paragraphs written in that era were still awfully long by modern standards, but much shorter than the syle in the Civil War era. I've noticed even in my lifetime that its getting more and more rare to find a paragraph longer than a few sentences; and very often people will only have a single sentence per paragraph now.

It's an odd thing. Are we approaching the age of using monosyllabic grunts for communication? Are we truly living in the soundbite age, even on the written page?

Wendy said...

It's been a while since I read it and I don't know that I absorbed it all. I'll try again - thanks for the nudge!

steakbellie said...

thats really interesting about the paragraphs getting shorter....i wonder why?

CoffeeDog said...

Paragraphs getting shorter, maybe because we as a society want everything in an instant.