On The Road influenced my life like no other book when I first read it in the early 70′s. There was an excitement of just “being” that was such an awesome alternative to the traditional roles of iconic literature, let alone life, something that was to be found out there, profound, to be gained only in leaving everything behind with nowhere in particular to go, but with road signs that offered vague references to places, cities, other possibilities. This alternative world was sublimely attractive and seductive. Of course, things have changed, or have they?
It is now a film.
Jack Kerouac: Crossing the Line
On the Road
a film directed by Walter Salles
Jack Kerouac was turned on by the cinema and he fancied himself as Jean Gabin in The Lower Depths. The Renoir film, adapted from the play by Maxim Gorky, was showing one evening in 1940 at the Apollo Theatre in Times Square and the young Columbia footballer sat in the balcony and felt moved by the image of the sainted figure who emerges out of despair. In time to come, Kerouac the writer would appear as a pioneer fixated on the journey west, but it was another direction, the journey down, that really captured him.
If we accept Yeats’s notion that the imagination attracts its affinities, then we can see how the compass was set for Kerouac in 1940. His reading lists no less than his circle of friends were set: they all played into the magic of self-invention behind his life and work. And the reason it all seems so deathlessly teenage is because Jack Kerouac crystalized a great surge of personal yearning at the very moment of its social inception. He couldn’t see what he’d done, and the social movements that grew out of the Beat Generation never suited his politics and overspent on his resources. “It changed my life like it changed everyone else’s,” said Bob Dylan of On the Road. (more…)