On the Road, Jack Kerouac’s second novel (and his masterpiece) was published 60 years ago today, on September 5, 1957. I happened to be just short of five months old at the time myself, so it was another 16 or 17 years until it finally made a big impact on my life.
Like Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, On the Road is best read at a fairly tender age. I loved it then and went through a real Kerouac phase in my early twenties and still have a genuine soft spot for the Beats despite their self-indulgence and self-mythologising.
I came back to On the Road in my forties and was hugely disappointed in it’s wild messiness.
Maybe now that we have both turned 60 I’m wild and messy enough again for another trip alongside Sal and Dean and the other “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 and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ”
Yeah, that feels right! I’ll keep you posted.