If I were “On the Road”

When I discovered that a film had been made of On the Road, I was a little incredulous. It chronicles Kerouac’s somewhat true, somewhat made-up, and basically plot-less. But it’s a portrait of a life, of a wild life, a life of frivolity and existentialism. Of freedom, thoughts, and philosophy.

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” – Jack Kerouac

It’s strange since I am now rereading the book, now 18. Almost of age with the characters, more so at least than when I first read it when I was 14.

My first reaction to this particular half-true novel was to treat it as a veritable guide to living life. A how-to manual. Who needs a job when you can take a typewriter and drugs and set forth into the Wild West? But that was such an idealistic way of viewing these adventures. Sure, they’re fantastical, and Kerouac mesmerizes you with beauty and savagely constructed words, but there’s a sadness in this story too.

On the Road truly is the tale of youths, hopeless and lost, dream-less. Directionless but powerful, like grenades set loose. He once explained, “I’m writing this book because we’re all going to die.” And in these characters, we find ourselves completely enamored. The lovable Prodigal sons before they return home.

I’m not sure how well this can be translated into a movie, but I liked the look of the trailer. And can the style be translated to film at all? Part of what makes this book magical is how beautifully it’s written, like a backwards Bible but with better metaphors. Because I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I’m worried as well. And also exciting. This book and this writer are very big influences on my own writing.

But that can’t be half as hard as translating David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas to film. I recently finished that, and… well, you can read about it here:

What do you think about this classic becoming a film? Can it even be done? Share your thoughts.



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