Son of Kerouac, Woodstock and God / James Crockett / 978-148125581 / 261 pages
As a young man about to embark upon a summer-long hitchhiking trip through the western United States in the mid-1970s, James Crockett was given a second-hand copy of Jack Kerouac’s autobiographical novel, On the Road – and later, Kerouac books which provided companionship and enlightenment on the journey.
This novelistic memoir, based upon journals kept during the trip, is something like a personal On the Road, set in the late 1970s.
And as Kerouac did in his books chronicling the Duluoz legend, Crockett has given aliases to all the characters – including himself – to protect their privacy. His own alias is Peter.
And Peter, like Kerouac and his compatriots, had a destination and along the way discovered something about himself.
Crockett’s writing pulls the reader right into his world and its people: 1970s Berkeley, friends, record stores, bars, truck drivers, long stretches of highway, national parks and natural wonders, beautiful women, and family relationships. There are rock festivals, and lots of music.
The pages are filled with the reverberations of the Beat Generation, and of the 1960s turmoil and culture, but also with the author’s personal turmoil. Peter is newly independent, and trying to figure out how to make a living – and to live a life that makes sense. The events of his hitch-hiking trip, and thereafter bring him to important realizations about the life he wants to lead.
The religious aspect of this book isn’t overwhelming – and for non-religious readers, won’t likely be off-putting. But it is at the heart of things. Raised a devout Catholic, Peter tries to reconcile how to live a rewarding adult life in the 1970s, which was filled with all the freedoms and pleasures that the 1960s made possible, while still remaining true to his own deeply-held values and beliefs.
Crockett’s engaging, novelistic writing pulls the reader along as he traverses the West Coast, to the heartland and back.
Readers who enjoy Kerouac and the Beats, want a look back at life in the 1960s or 1970s, or just want a great summer read will certainly enjoy Son of Kerouac, Woodstock, and God.