Monday, December 10, 2012
On the road
I first read Jack Kerouac's landmark novel On The Road when I was fifteen. Needless to say it was a landmark moment in my life and one that remains an essential part of who and what I am.
The book is basically a rambling collection of stories around a handful of characters in the late 1940's. It was published in 1956 and immediately became a classic example of that period of time in America. Kerouac and his friends were literate, many were university students and others were just plain crazy people.
What's significant about the book is that it was arguably the first book about young people looking for something else besides the world they saw as different after a world war. And rather than look for jobs, they decided to travel across the country for no real particular reason except adventure, drinking, lots of sex and drugs. And also seeing a country that was recovering from four years of seeing soldiers dying in Europe and the Pacific.
It was also the beginning of the Beat Generation, which would lead to rock and roll, jazz, beatniks, hippies, the love generation and a feeling of discovery of another America. The one that was waiting to be discovered with cars, something that didn't happen that much in the 20's or 30's.
And it changed my life.
Not so much the drugs and sex, but the feeling I always had when I traveled across the great prairies and the Rocky Mountains and the truckstops where so many characters I've noticed and whom filled my screenplays. It was my adventure.
Kerouac wrote the book on a long roll of newsprint, he wrote on a typewriter at a frenzied rate, no doubt fueled by other substances. He was from a French Canadian family in upstate Massachusetts and wrote not only of the lifestyle of the road but also of the discovery of what the country had become, from lonely towns to cities and in a way that made it all sound like a movie to me.
I have driven probably a million miles in the last 40 years, my trusty Ford SUV now has over 300,000 miles and I've had several cars. My friends say that all I need in life is a tank of gas and a highway I've never been on. The highway photo at the top of this blog is in Nevada and part of a documentary I did.
And this brings me to the movie. Finally after years, someone has made On The Road. Francis Coppola, who made The Godfather, optioned it 25 years ago with the intention of making it but never got it together. Finally he gave it to Brazilian Walter Salles who made The Motorcycle Diaries, about the early days of Che Guevara. This took 8 years to get made and finally it will premiere Dec 21st.
But I always wondered if the book could be a movie. It's style of prose is completely different than most novels, it rambles, it rolls along. Sentences continue for forever and the energy was either felt or not. And that's the dilemma. Can it make a movie?
The early reviews were mixed, which I expected and I am uncertain about the outcome. I will see it, I have to see it, but yet a part of me doesn't want to be disappointed, not since it means so much.
I guess I'll see if the adventure remains.