The End Of The Road?

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 13 2011 @ 1:42pm


Ari N. Schulman asks how tracking technology would affect Kerouac's On the Road if it were written today:

Can we imagine its characters, and by extension ourselves, escaping into the Western night, navigating by GPS and choosing where to go with Yelp, supplied with surrounding-relevant multimedia by GeoTour, encountering city streets with their iPhones held up and overlaying the view, and still having the same adventure? Something about this image is absurd.

To better appreciate what and why that might be, it is helpful to step back and consider On The Road’s forerunner in American wayfaring legend, the classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain’s tale is one of the great depictions of discovery through travel. … There was already a sense, in Huck Finn and On the Road, that something in the air was becoming so thick that it threatened to entrap the human spirit. This reached a frantic intensity for Kerouac, whose characters had to be almost constantly on the move, as if they might otherwise get stuck in place like bugs in amber. Today Sal and Dean could not move fast enough to escape what has congealed in the landscape before them. This is why, if Kerouac’s work succeeded Twain’s as the American fable of wayfaring, today there is no clear successor to Kerouac.

(Photo: Pack Daddy's Suitcases by Michael Johansson)