Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Fistful of Reads 2015: On the Road


This one was down to the wire.  By down to the wire I literally mean that I woke up this morning with 100 pages left to read.  I don't know what happened to me this month, but it completely ran away from me.  So, that being said, I finished this one about five minutes ago, ingested it, and am still processing it.  

Oh, but I do have thoughts!

Before I get into my review though, here are the links:

Chris reviews The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

And that's it for this month.  Remember, if you review a book, any book (and any amount of books) on your blog, send me a link either here or on Twitter ( @fististhoughts ) and I'll link you on the last day of every month when I post my personal review.

Ok, so the book I read this month was:



Biographies are not my thing.  I don’t know if I can really say that, since I’ve never really read one outside of school, but they just carry with them this air of stuffy ‘factual’ boredom.  I just feel like reading one will slip me into a coma.  I have read a few memoirs, and I’ve found them (some of them) to be really moving.  I guess you could classify ‘On the Road’ as a memoir, since it’s an accounting of Jack Kerouac’s travels on the road (a few of them, actually).  So, it’s kind of like a time specific or thematic autobiography that reads more like a novel on speed.

I dug this one.

It’s almost hard to explain exactly what ‘On the Road’ is, since it’s less a story and more a continually moving expression of an individual’s momentary mindset.  As Jack Kerouac literally spills out everything he’s thinking, devoting passages to thoughts, actions and contemplations, ‘On the Road’ whips from one place to another without really going anywhere at all.  Now, I know that that sounds like a bad thing, since we often criticize a plotless or seemingly pointless artistic expression, since we instinctively want to be taken somewhere, to land at a climax of sorts, and yet there is a beauty in the anticlimactic wonderment of the entirety of ‘On the Road’.  There is this lingering absence of any grounded stability, the story taking off in so many directions, leaving characters for long spells for no reason and quite sporadically and abruptly and yet it is within these fractured and severed ‘tales’ that the story finds itself taking root in the reader.

I have never been so rapturously engulfed by something I was continually struggling to get a grip on.

Now, I have to point out that the version I have just put down is the Original Scroll, which is not the original version that was released back in the 50’s.  This original version, restored and finally delivered to the public back in 2007, is a different animal than the one that first appeared back in 1957.  This version ditches all pseudonyms, referring to each character by the name that inspired them.  So, out are names like Sal and Dean and in are the true identities of these people; Jack (our narrator and author) and Neal.  The book is also presented in its original format, which adds to the chaos and almost blurred reality of Jack’s travels.  There are no paragraphs, no chapter breaks, just one long block of type that was originally typed out on a 120 foot scroll of tracing paper over a three week time period.  It makes for a very unique and memorable reading experience, albeit a tad exhausting at times and very hard to take a break from (and beings that I can’t devote HOURS to reading there were times where finding a spot to leave off was frustrating).

Still, I feel something internally changed after reading ‘On the Road’.  It’s not like anything else I’ve ever experienced.  It’s not a book, not a mere story, but a moment in time, a fragment of real life, severed from the life living it and presented to the reader with a recklessness that can only appear in the midst of a real soul.

EDIT:  I wanted to add this point, as I meant to include it and wound up forgetting, but I have a habit of buying my books used.  This was no exception.  Often, I'm irritated by the amount of underlining and notations made in my books by the previous owners, but this time I have to say that all the notes in corners and underlined passages made such an impact on me as a reader.  I found myself rereading sentences, impressing them into my brain and finding underlining subtext that I would have probably completely looked over if it hadn't been highlighted for me.  I don't write in my books, but for once I was really happy that someone wrote in it for me.

16 comments:

  1. This sounds like an interesting read and I am one for biographies. Glad you enjoyed the read

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    1. It's certainly interesting. I hope you check it out.

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  2. I often wonder who the heck is constantly reading pencil in hand. I certainly don't, not even as a student. I read voraciously but have a bad memory - very few really stick with me. Very few. It also takes a lot to impress me. people often aske me for a recommendation, and though I probably read at least 20 books a month, I usually have a hard time thinking of a single one that I'd recommend.

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    1. Wow, you really are a voracious reader! I used to be like that, but juggling work, kids, wife, friends, movies and books becomes...hard.

      You should review some for the blog and I'll link them each month :-D

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  3. I love that your experience with this one was impacted by the hand-written notes. Haven't read this yet, but it's on my list. Can't wait for your thoughts on the movie!

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    1. It really took the reading of this to another level.

      I can't wait to see the movie...I'll be sure to let you know my thoughts :-D

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  4. Thanks for the link! I'll comment on your review, once I've read the book. Like I said, I ordered On The Road from the library, so it's only a matter of time before I get my copy.

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    1. Thanks for contributing this month! Can't wait to hear your thoughts on the book itself when you read it.

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    2. "like a novel on speed" ha, yeah, I also found it exhilarating, at least some of the chapters! I read the original 1957 edition(not the scroll). A number of the sentences impressed me a lot too, I included a few in my review.

      As promised, here's the link:
      http://moviesandsongs365.blogspot.com/2015/07/book-review-on-road-by-jack-kerouac-1957.html

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    3. YAY!!! I can't wait to read your review.

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  5. "I have never been so rapturously engulfed by something I was continually struggling to get a grip on" -- I love this! Excellent review, Andrew.

    I've always wanted to have a book club where we pass around a great book, and --in turn -- everyone underlines well loved sections or turns of phrase and jots down notes in the margins before handing it off to the next person. How cool would that be? :-)

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    1. I'm with you on the Book Club...I just wish I had friends that actually liked to read :-P

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  6. I remember reading this in high school English class... or rather, trying to read it. I hated this one ALMOST as much as I hated Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (which I had to read the next year). I couldn't get through it - and I NEVER had that problem with books before this one. I really did like the recent film of it, though. Maybe I should try it again? Although I doubt I will react any better to the style of writing.

    Also writing in the margins of books. NO. Just NO. I use sticky notes so I don't deface the book. A good family friend of ours when I was young was a local librarian, so I was brought up respecting books and the fact that someone might own/read it after you, even if you own it.

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    1. LOL, right! I'm with you on preserving books like that. I NEVER write in them and never will...but I own many second (third, forth, whatever) hand books that have passages underlined or thoughts written in the margins...but I'm serious when I say that this time...it helped.

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