© Jack Kerouac; (P)2004 BBC Audiobooks Ltd.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
I have long meant to read this book but I had resisted in case it didn't live up to its legendary status. In the end, I think it was the fact that Matt Dillon was to narrate it that persuaded me to take the plunge. I now feel vindicated on two scores; first, the legend is alive and well and, secondly, Dillon was a terrific narrator.
There's no point spending too much time on the plot. The listener needs to experience it with Sal Paradise, with the words blowing through your mind like wind through your hair and the drug of sex and excitement invading your imagination like the drugs that invade Sal's system. It is the seminal "Road" tale populated with huge characters like Dean Moriarty and Marylou, his "little sharp chick", the Frenchman poet, Remi, Carlo Marx (poet and adulterer), Montana Slim and "Big Ed" Dunkel. Sal, it seems, is a metaphor for Kerouac and you can trace the rest of the characters through the many reminiscences written about this work by the characters themselves. But, in my opinion, the story is not the main thing. It's the living of it that makes it eternal. I found it a bit like looking back on a fond, but now past, phase of my life (not that my was ever as eventful as Sal's). It has that intimate feel of your own personal memories. I wrote a lot of notes about it to write this review, but most of them are just not important enough to mention, although they seemed important at the time. Again, these are like the events in the book.
Returning to Dillon, really there is not much to say. He captures the book's racy sexuality, the atmosphere of a jazz age and and a youth that was looking for something that is too elusive to capture. There were times when he brought to mind Springsteen ("Lost in the Flood", "Backstreets") and at other times Van Morrison ("Coney Island"). Musical and noisy.
I enjoyed this journey.
Every time listen to this book I hear something new in it. Some new rhythm, some new character, some forgotten tenderness.
The prose is sublime, like when Paradise is creating an image in his head of Dean's drunken hobo father, "...falling down in drunken alley nights, dropping his yellowed teeth one by one into the gutters of the west,..". This is Saul Bellow and Steinbeck rolled into one irresistible rhythmic highway that rolls back and forth across a great jazz-bop, marijuana fuelled continental dream, from Long Island to Los Angelus in a country that has largely disappeared, and largely stayed the same.
Too many to mention.
When Dean is being isolated and exposed as a fraud and a conman. One is compelled to feel for him, to forgive him, to pull his unpacked case into the car and head for the next horizon.
The narration by Matt Dillon is the finest I have heard for any book. He is obviously a fan of the book. To none-American ears sometimes American accented narration can take a bit of getting used to. Not so with Dillon, a remarkable piece of work.
"On a role...."
In its first, and true draft, Kerouac typed directly on a single continuous roll of paper - a preternatural, crystal clear stream, tic-tac'd on a typewriter. A monotone delivery is pitch perfect and here is what we get in this performance of one of the 'landmark' skid novels of the twentieth century. For me it will always be the 'Birth of the Cool' in written form and transposes neatly in time, place and temperament with the sounds of Miles Davis. The combination of mental, physical, and emotional traits of a person, his natural predisposition, his fears, his motivations, what makes him laugh and where he chooses to dispose of the instinctual energies and desires that are derived from the id. Daddy-oh. A feeling, a place, a time, relax, forget, remember and then let it go....
Loved the contemporary feel of a story set in late forties/early fifties, and the sizzlingly brilliant writing. Loathed the abusive relationships with women depicted in such a matter of fact and helpless manner.
Matt Dillon's narration was very poor except with dialogue. All other sentences were churned out too quickly, as if bored and with the same down turn in tone at the end of the sentence regardless of context.
"Classic book -- shame about the reading"
5 stars for the book but Matt Dillon's reading is done in a gruff monotone. This is a very long reading, and after a while it becomes difficult to listen to because of his delivery. Worthwhile but flawed.
"It took me a while to get into On The Road."
I had the audiobook version read by Matt Dillon. I found the characters all basically unlikeable to begin with and it wasn't until around the middle of the story that this started to change. Even then, it was the wildly dysfunctional Dean that I thought was most sympathetic and I never really pinned down Sal. The descriptions of America and Mexico throughout are detailed however and, purely as a portrait of a time and place, this is a fascinating book.
Yes. It gets better with age.
The Dharma Bums - J.K.
I have had often been dissapointed by american narrators, not so in this case. Dillon is perfectly pitched for this.
Yes i laughed out loud. But this time around, having read the book at 15 , 25 years ago, i could relate to the book from personal experience. I enjoyed the book very much at 15, and "got it"...but realise much went over my head, especialy the sadness of dysfunctional relationships. At 15, i was excited by the drugs, in awe of DM ( since then i have known a few types like DM, recognise their attraction but see the negativity and vamparism in them too), the sexual liasons and all night sessions in jazz dens. i enjoyed them this time around too, but especially enjoyed the bucholic descriptions of the urban and wild landscapes...something i was less sensitive to first time around. I put off buying the audio for months , suspecting i would find the novel childish, im a european through and through... i traveled throughout the USA by car in 2000...in sum it is a frighteningly banal place, for me, even its glorious natural wilderness's (whats left of them), could not redeem the USA. this book was wrtitten half a century ago...a pivotal point. it is as fresh and profound as anything else of the genre, the ultimate beat book.
"Not a successful audio book for me."
I had to give up on listening to this book, as I found the delivery very annoying, which means I cannot really judge the book itself. The narrator has a habit of tailing off the last few words in a sentence. It sounds very lazy and disinterested to me, so I couldn't get into the story. It may be a matter of taste, others may find it fine, I suggest trying a sample. I think the style of writing may work better for me in print, which I will try.
"A long listen..."
I didn't really enjoy this and I don't think it was down to the narration. The aimless wandering and drifting did my head in. They always seemed to be going somewhere, but usually without reason and without actually seeming to enjoy it either. Dull. Occasionally a scene is described in a wonderful, poignant way; but there is a lot to wade through till they get there. I enjoyed it more when they got to Mexico as their experiences were new and foreign.
I watched the new Ken Kesey documentary "Magic Trip" and didn't like that either (features the real guy who inspired the fictional Dean Moriarty), so I probably have the wrong sort of brain for this stuff - not sufficiently drug-addled!
One Flew Over the Cookoo's nest is a great book (and film) though.
I had high hopes of this one.... but I am having to give up on it. Matt Dillon's awful monotonous delivery is doing absolutely nothing for me, and I am finding I have no inclination to go on with it. I usually listen to my current audible book for 45 minutes at a time while walking my dog looking forward to the next installment, but after three days of switching off after 15 minutes, I am moving on to the next book in my library.
A brilliant performance by Matt Damon takes the listener right into the heart of Kerouac's cool ramble of a book. I was immersed in fifties America, on the back of pickup trucks and in the seediest hotel rooms, in love and isolated, life through the dark glass of a poetic mind. Great writing, great performance.
A difficult book to express, perfectly rendered - well done Mr Dillon. One of the very best readings I've heard.
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