Fourteen years before the United States mandated exit numbers on Dwight Eisenhower's brainchild of a road system, a Lowell, Mass native of French-Canadian extraction named Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac published a novel that would change countless lives; a mash note to an already-dead America living under the weight of what Igor Kurchatov and J. Robert Oppenheimer had wrought.
My mother marks my reading of On The Road when I was 18 as the precise moment when everything started to go wrong in my life. I prefer to say it's the book that turned me from a mid-day anonymous undersexed teen on a sugar crash into an unwitting writer. Without getting florid or farther into a navel-lint mining expedition than I already am — it's the piece that taught me where writing comes from. It was a manifestation of Gutenberg-wrought Awesome. Last week, Slate published an interesting installment of The Book Club by Walter Kirn and Meghan O'Rourke. O'Rourke had never read On The Road before; for Kirn the book stood as an absolute totem; a part of him. What's more, he reads it like an elegy for a time Kerouac already knew was past.