On the Road

When I was a kid, I read War and Peace but got bored by all the war chapters so skipped them and just read the peace ones. After 100 pages of Kerouac nonsense, I returned to this same strategy, only reading the San Francisco and New York sections. Still, it was a waste of time.

I read this book as a kid, too, and was curious about how the experience of reading it would differ after decades of living in SF and maturing my brain. My teenaged mind was boggled by the adventure and free association prose poem, but my wiser, older self views this as a putrid piece of garbage that does nothing to deserve the label “Classic.” It was a gut-punching reminder that the patriarchy’s toxic waste filters down to both genders in vehicles like this. Books where women are depicted as mindless chicks who nag and whine and are only good for one thing—screwing. And his ignorance of white privilege is astonishing in this passage where he says he’s a dreary white man, wishing he were the colored man he sees in front of him, “wishing I could exchange worlds with the happy, true-hearted, ecstatic Negroes of America.”

Most useful was the introduction where the myth of Kerouac’s writing this all out rat-a-tat in 3 weeks was dispelled. He’d written several versions of it over the preceding years and would go on to write another version after the 3-weeks-typed-onto-long-roll version.