Well, the first reviews of “On the Road” the movie have arrived from the Cannes Film Festival and word on the street is that it’s… just okay. But be heartened, fellow readers, we’ll always have the book, right? In that spirit, here are some of my “great line” highlights from that read. All emphasis is mine:
My first impression of Dean was of a young Gene Autry—trim, thin-hipped, blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent—a sideburned hero of the snowy West.
A western kinsman of the sun, Dean.
Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.
Where was his father?-old bum Dean Moriarty the Tinsmith, riding freights, working as a scullion in railroad cookshacks, stumbling, down-crashing in wino alley nights, expiring on coal piles, dropping his yellowed teeth one by one in the gutters of the West.
We wandered around, carrying our bundles of rags in the narrow romantic streets. Everybody looked like a broken-down movie extra, a withered starlet; disenchanted stunt-men, midget auto-racers, a poignant California characters with their end-of-the-continent sadness, handsome, decadent, Casanova-ish men, puffy-eyed motel blondes, hustlers, pimps, whores, masseurs, bellhops-a lemon lot, and how’s a man going to make a living with a gang like that?
But then they danced down the streets like dingle-dodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after the people who interest me, because 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 and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
Of course, half the fun of the novel is found in the short vignettes that are delivered in just a paragraph or two- the amusing cutaways from the main story. Here’s one that takes place on the flat bed of a truck doing seventy miles an hour that really tickled my inner twelve-year old:
…Montana Sliim said, “Ah, pisscall,” but the Minnesotans didn’t stop and went right on through. “Damn, I gotta go,” said Slim.
“Go over the side,” said somebody.
“Well, I will,” he said, and slowly, as we all watched, he inched to the back of the platform on his haunch, holding on as best he could, till his legs dangled over. Somebody knocked on the window of the cab to bring this to the attention of the brothers. Their great smiles broke as they turned. And just as Slim was ready to proceed, precarious as it was already, they began zigzagging the truck at seventy miles an hour. He fell back a moment; we saw a whale’s spout in the air; he struggled back to a sitting position. They swung the truck. Wham, over he went on his side, watering all over himself. In the roar we could hear him faintly cursing, like the whine of a man far across the hills. “Damn… damn…” He never knew we were doing this deliberately; he just struggled, as grim as Job. When he was finished, as such, he was wringing wet, and now he had to edge and shimmy his way back, and with a most woebegone look, and everybody laughing, except the sad blond boy, and the Minnesotans roaring in the cab. I handed him the bottle to make up for it.
“What the hail,” he said, “ was they doing that on purpose?”
“They sure were.”
“Well, damn me, I didn’t know that. I know I tried it back in Nebraska and didn’t have half so much trouble.”