Friday, November 12, 2010

The Relevancy of On The Road

Kerouac's On the Road might find a willing audience today. The Beats were a generation marginalized by a depression and then a World War. They never had time to get their footing and as Kerouac said they felt perpetually beat by the stress they were living under. Creating a subculture of drugs and alcohol and a bohemian lifestyle, Jack's book On The Road chronicled the years he traveled with Neal Cassidy in the America of the middle to late forties. Reading this novel sixty some years later one has to wonder what the relevancy of this type of  road less taken existence novel would be.

We have now been living during the Great Recession for some three years and people do appear Beat. The middle class is oxygen starved for relief and they are looking for answers so much so that extremists are being sent to Washington with a mandate to just do something. On The Road states a simple fact that there is another way of being beneath the bourgeois existence and that if we are open to that world then maybe we might find the happiness we are missing. After that it is a travelogue through the underbelly of America just before the middle of the century.

Someone undertaking this On The Road existence would find a different America but certainly the people living under the radar of mainstream America has skyrocketed. Jack and the boys moved through an America ravaged by a depression and then on a war footing. There was little room for people doing drugs and seeking out alternate forms of consciousness. America today is a nation where many people are looking for an alternative to the juggernaut of capitalism where jobs have vanished and the middle class finds themselves sliding to the working poor. Maybe the time is ripe for another road less taken novel.
Rocket Man is due out in January

Books by William Hazelgrove