There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars
Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as in ever on the road
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, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars
These words introduced me to Jack Kerouac. They fed my inherent desire to travel, to meet crazy people, people who burn, burn, burn but don’t say a commonplace thing. But sadly I couldn’t be on the same road as him in his acclaimed novel.
Yes, Kerouac takes you across America, right from the Wild West to New York, yet the change in landscapes is hardly visible in the escapades of Sal Paradise and his hero-friend Dean Moriarty. There are hitchhikers, too broke to fend for themselves; girlfriends, too crazed by Dean yet ones who can’t leave him; long lost friends who always manage to take the duo in for a night to two; some jazz and even a foray into Mexico. All this could have been the fertile ground for some unforgettable characters, yet none of the ‘beat’ people Kerouac pens manages to leave an imprint. They are mere sketchy characters, with little to distinguish themselves other than being dirt poor and their general apathy towards work.
In Dean, the traveller and mystic, Kerouac might have tried to pen the man from the quote above, but he falls way short of it. The long talks, chronicling life and its mysteries, is laborious to read, as are his constant proclamations of ‘dig this’ and ‘dig that’. Not once does the ‘living epitome of beat’ manage to hold your attention or the voice of Sal Paradise provide a glimpse into life and its larger questions. In the end, you are left wondering why you ever went on this long and arduous journey.