A Classic to Avoid: “On the Road”

OntheRoad“On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope,” gushes a review on Amazon.com. “[It] is a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up.”

It sure changed me. It taught me that reading time is precious. And the hours I spent plodding through this “quintessential” novel?

Yeah, I won’t be getting those back.

What’d been hyped as a transformative story about a young man finding his way in post-World War II America turned out to be, as far as I can tell, a travelogue about two underemployed guys binge-drinking their way to Mexico.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But still.

Overly long by 100 pages, On the Road felt tedious where it should’ve been taut, redundant where it should’ve been revolutionary.

Does the novel contain flashes of brilliance? Sure.

Will I be diving back in to find them anytime soon? Only if I lose a bet.

(By the way, that scroll in the picture isn’t the Torah; it’s the manuscript of On the Road as Kerouac wrote it.)

 

This piece originally appeared in the Washington Independent Review of Books.

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