in the moment

I’ve long been vaugely interested in On the Road, as I am with most culturally significant books. But it wasn’t until my husband started reading — and recommending — Kerouac that I actually sought the book out.  I’m listening to the audiobook now, and I’m glad he encouraged me to get my hands on it.

I’m about a third of the way through it currently, and one thing I can say is that it’s certainly different than most things I read.  I am first and foremost a reader of fiction — no, I should say a reader of novels.  I’ve never really gotten into the short story as a literary form.  I like poetry well enough, but typically in small doses.  There are specific essayists and humor writers I like, but I don’t generally spend a lot of time in those genres. 

What draws me into reading is the overarching plot — the intricate story with developed characters and a compelling need to know what’s going to happen to those characters.  This is why I read novels (and, to some extent, memoirs); to get to know the characters, to understand their circumstances and take their journey with them — to find out what’s next.

But On the Road isn’t about what’s going to happen to the characters, or what comes next — it’s about what the characters are doing in the moment.  It’s about being where you are when you are, and not knowing for sure how long that will be or where it might lead you. 

That’s not to say there aren’t characters.  There are, and they’re incredibly distinctive at times.  But the narrator himself and the individuals around him seem largely aimless, which doesn’t make for much of a story or plot in and of itself.  The focus of the book is instead their interactions — with other people, with their surroundings — and on Kerouac’s vivid descriptions of both people and places.

All in all, it makes it an easy book to read at a relaxed pace.  When I’m listening to it, I’m perfectly content to be in the moment the book is describing, but at the same time, there’s no dire urgency to move forward.  I can come and go from it as I please without constantly thinking about what’s going to be happening next.  Like our narrator, I’ll find out when I get there.   

 

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~ by Molly on November 23, 2009.

One Response to “in the moment”

  1. […] wrote a little about my first impressions of Kerouac previously, and those thoughts still hold true.  The book held my attention, for the most part, which I was […]

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