Jack Kerouac writes like Jackson Pollock paints. And for those of you familiar with the work of Pollock you know exactly what I mean. Kerouac promulgated a slash-and-dash style of writing, a jittery style of writing, an alcohol fused style of writing, that caused his characters to get caught up in their shoelaces and--though On the Road--made them go nowhere in particular no matter how many times they crisscrossed America.
On the Road has very little plot and even less character generation of unique speech and idiosyncrasies. It may have been better if Kerouac had dispensed with punctuation altogether and made it a 300+ page run-on sentence. Truman Capote said "That's not writing; that's typing." His Columbia English lit teacher must have told him that writing a novel is a race. Kerouac took her up on it, claiming to have written On the Road in a three week maniacal flurry of writing (sorry, typing).
Kerouac is said to have died in 1967 (nearly one year after my birth) of internal bleeding due to alcohol abuse. Don't you believe it. I say Kerouac died of an acute case of diarrhea of the keyboard. He is pictured above in his 1943 Naval enlistment photo, Kerouac became a symbol of the early beat culture. On the Road was published in 1957 and is his most famous novel.
Despite my view of it, it is a novel of importance because Kerouac's rambling style was largely a first in literature. I wonder why? There is no question that it gives the novel a pure, unfiltered feel that can only come off as genuine. You take it flaws and all, just like life. For that it has value.
Several big names in music have dedicated songs to the novel and the man: “Black Cowboys” by Bruce Springsteen; “Idiot Wind” by Bob Dylan; “Hey Jack Kerouac” by 10,000 Maniacs.
Author of The Divine Dantes trilogy