I was in one of those warehouse sized discount stores the other day when I came across a table stacked with books. One of my old favorites jumped right out at me and I picked it up. I was surprised to see a brand new printing of the Jack Kerouac classic On the Road. That book had a major influence on me as a teenager and young man. I remember finding that and copies of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in a box of my Mom’s books that was stashed in our basement. These books had all been controversial for different reasons and I remember feeling like I had come across a secret cache of some kind of forbidden fruit.
Kerouac had the idea for On The Road in the late 40’s and finished his first draft on one continuous scroll in 1951, although it wasn’t published until 1957. As I held this new edition in my hand I couldn’t stifle my ironic amusement at seeing the latest edition of On The Road being marketed in a discount store with the phrase “NOW! A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE!” plastered all over the cover, along with glossy photos of the 20-something actors smiling with perfect teeth and stylishly coiffed hair who are presumably playing the roles of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady who were, in fact, unwashed, speed addled, pot smoking, besotted, penniless, rag tag vagabonds and not Barbie and Ken Dolls.
I admit to feeling some consternation that one of my own most revered icons from my wayward youth was NOW! A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE! Sacrilege, I say! Not really, but it’s a little like the way I felt when I figured out there was no Santa Claus, or that my Davy Crockett toys had been sold in a garage sale. The death of the 60’s was hard enough to take back then, but do you have to keep rubbing it in in 2012 by making On The Road into Beverly Hills 90210?
So, they finally came out with a film version of On The Road. Well, it took ’em long enough. Kerouac wrote the thing 61 years ago. By the way, what kind of advertising genius still calls films “motion pictures”? The Golden Age of Hollywood is long gone, my friend. A friend of mine told me today that Allen Ginsberg bobbleheads are part of the marketing campaign. Seriously? Must you? That’s just like pouring salt in the wound. If you’re going to do that, then it seems like a Walt Whitman teddy bear would be huge. Or how about a Charles Bukowski doll that smokes, drinks and curses?
I must admit, I am kind of curious about this “major motion picture.” However, I know I’ll be watching this one at home on Movies on Demand, amongst the trappings of my bourgeois lifestyle as I lay draped in velvet and sipping an insouciant cabernet that doesn’t bite back.