Wanderlust. It can take you to some interesting places, both figuratively and literally, physically and mentally. Paradise Road: Jack Kerouac’s Lost Highway and My Search for America by Jay Atkinson chronicles Atkinson’s trip across the United States, mirroring the trip that Kerouac took and used in writing his now-classic Beat Generation novel On the Road.
Retracing the journey that the seminal Kerouac took that fostered the creation of On the Road, Atkinson shares his experiences and revelations of traveling across America. When the concept of hitchhiking his way across the country doesn’t pan out because contemporary society isn’t quite comfortable with it anymore, travel companions Surfer and Bongo help Atkinson make the self-discovery trek through the nation.
An entertaining travel memoir peppered with plenty of informative nuggets relating to Kerouac’s life and writings. Readers don’t have to have read Kerouac’s work to understand this book, but it certainly helps in the appreciation of what Atkinson sets out to accomplish. It’s always amazing to see how much America has changed while also remaining the same, as contradictory as that may seem, and the comparisons drawn between Atkinson’s journey and Kerouac’s highlight that conundrum. The writing was straight-forward and journalistic, making for an easy read. One aspect, which bugged me, from a consistency standpoint, was the seemingly random alternation between his friends’s names and nicknames.
Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.