Revisiting old books is always a fascinating exercise, usually with mixed results if I approach it honestly. Much of the Kerouac I devoured in the mid 90's has not aged too well in my mind. I do love Maggie Cassidy more than ever thanks to a rereading a few months ago, but I had until now not reread On The Road. Problem solved.
I vividly remember reading it when I was 18 because Scott was reading it at the same time. We skated almost everyday at Walgreens on Archer and would quote pieces of text to each other.
"D'ere you go man, D'ere you go."
That is an effeminate car.
"We'll look for work mon yana."
We pushed each other to devour text each night so we could chat about it at the next night's session and not end up behind the other. It was a book club that existed in a parking lot with a view of waxed curbs and the sound of flat spotted wheels.
I remember loving the way the characters rambled in all directions without any concern for money, future, or any other degree of planning. Dean and Sal were living ids. I was focused on college and showing up to work at the theater on time. These characters moved while I felt like I was standing still, as I suspect most kids at that age feel that way. I hold no regrets as I knew that college and some money in the bank would create an opportunity for bigger life movements in a few years. I had my eyes a mile or two down the road, yet I was still enthralled by 'ol Dean and Sal sprinting off at the drop of the hat. It has never been in my top 10 of favorite books, though it's energy and warm memory always lived happily in my mind.
I was somewhat hesitant to give it another try as I had a legitimate fear about adding another old favorite to the list of things I cannot now fathom ever liking (Spaceballs, Top Gun). Better to let the past stay warm and a bit hazy. However, a movie adaptation is the works and I know I will get sucked into seeing it, so I'd best tune up my memory of the actual text. Do I still enjoy it?
Yes, a great deal, though for very different reasons. As an adult with a child, I was extremely annoyed by the crass selfishness of the characters and the way they treated their families and responsibilities. I saw evidence in the text that the reader was intended to take a critical eye to Dean in this regard, though this evidence was rather lean. The energy of the book happily remains -- the pages just flat out zoom by. I was completely struck by Sal's loneliness, which is something I had not noticed to a great degree initially. Regardless of his difficulties to forge these bonds, the man is deeply searching for connections amongst men and women. I had always though of it as Dean's book, yet now I can only see Sal's stumbling hope of personal relationships.
I am now extremely interested to see which themes get emphasized in the flick. (How did I ever laugh at Spaceballs?)