The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Baker's Dozen

A Life Turning Pages: Robert Forster's Favourite Books
Aug Stone , April 8th, 2020 09:22

The Go-Betweens founder takes Aug Stone through his 'eclectic even to himself' reading tastes


Jack Kerouac – On The Road
Carrying on from The Catcher In The Rye, On The Road is the same sort of thing. Written in the early 50s, in New York, and before youth explosion. But in a way it's all about the youth explosion.

I first read this when I started university, just out of high school. This was a book I knew about. By then I knew about books. I was studying English Literature in various forms. This book wasn't part of the curriculum but it was a book that obviously got mentioned a lot. I read it and I loved it. It spoke to me as an 18-year-old, the same way The Catcher In The Rye spoke to me as a 15 year old. Kerouac's style got me, it was so readable. Like Salinger, it cut through all the crap. It didn't start in an obscure way, where you had to earn your right into the book by making the first 20 or 30 pages difficult. It just went 'this is the story. This is when I met Dean Moriarty. I'm not gonna tell you about this divorce in my life, something that I went through, I'm just gonna get straight to the story.' The description, the beauty of the writing, the joy, it swept me along. It's a very positive book. Not many novels are positive and life-affirming, you know. I think it's his best book. I love the energy of it and the writing.

Like other people, I read it and I just wanted to get out of town, though I didn't. Thinking about it though, the joy of travel and the joy of experience is something I got from On The Road. I didn't realize it but my children talk about it, that when we're in a foreign city I'm like 'look at that! Isn't this incredible?' Maybe it's just my own personality or maybe it comes from the narrator in that book going through those landscapes and being high on life. I related to it, immediately.

But what I also got from On The Road, besides the travel and the joy of life, was the beauty of the writing. There was no...camouflage. All that standard living in the suburbs, the type of writing that was going on - how dull 50s writing could be, about marriages and relationships and jobs and children - all that got swept away by Kerouac. The two things that got me were the romanticism of New York and also that bohemian underground world of people that were looking for something else in life. Reading this helped install that in me.