What literary character would you road-trip with, and where, if you had nowhere to go but everywhere? To celebrate Jack Kerouac’s birthday, The Strand lets us know.
Toni T., Main Floor Manager
Road trips are hard. All the talking, usually not on my part! Vin (from Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy) would be my ideal road trip companion to complete my dream journey to the vast deserts of the western coast. She’s a quiet, intelligent, and introspective sort. I imagine there wouldn’t be endless chatter, and we would both be able to relax and enjoy the scenery, and have occasional deep discussions. Not to mention her abilities would come in handy if we encountered any troublesome folks!
Justin B., Main Floor Tables
The true ideal of the road trip for me, that perfect series of incredulous exploits capped by a conspicuously un-edifying conclusion, has long been Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. No book has been so consistently intelligent and thought-provoking, yet been so refreshingly lacking in anything approaching moral or revelation; its brilliance is devoted entirely to being an absurdly entertaining story, as any good road trip should.
And so, from that cast of misfits, whom do I choose to accompany me? The eternally baffled Arthur Dent? The dangerously narcissistic Zaphod Beeblebrox? The quixotic and unbothered Trillian? Certainly not the hilariously overqualified Marvin. No, I’d have to go with Ford Prefect. With enough galactic wanderlust and optimism to proscribe the mundane, yet enough of a sense of self-preservation to keep us out of the kinds of dangers to which only toddlers and small cats should be prone, he’s the natural foil to go up against my insularity, cynicism, and general play-it-safe…ness. And equipped with the eponymous Guide to answer the more obscure questions that no one asked in the first place, he’s your fun friend and your annoying friend in one extraterrestrial package.
Plus, he named himself after a car. A car nobody’s heard of. It just screams “perfect travel companion,” doesn’t it?
Jeff Y., Warehouse Manager
I would want to go on a trip with Biff (from Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal) so that he could tell me of his view on life, his experiences while traveling with Jesus, and the opinions he had regarding his best friend.
Carmen P., Third Floor—Accounting
Mine would have to be John Self, from Martin Amis’s Money. We’d tour the English countryside in his vintage, purple Fiasco, stopping everywhere the “crackling sorcerer of grub and booze” recommended along the way. The trip would end with a proper debauch in London, after which, of course, I would ensure that both of us caught a cab back to wherever was functioning as our home.
Tierney N., Main Floor Tables
I love road trips—I love the chance to listen to loud music with the windows down, survey the beautiful landscape, and have long thoughtful discussions with travel companions. If I’m completely honest with myself, I think I’d love to go on a road trip with Lizzy (from Pride & Prejudice). I know that might seem a little ridiculous but I think she’d be a splendid person to have on an adventure across the United Kingdom (from Wales all the way up to Scotland). She’d understand the natural moments for quiet and personal contemplation but also be willing to dive into thoughtful discussions and/or debates. She’d know all the best places to stop and would never be afraid to get a little dirty traipsing through the forests. To have the seemingly unlimited time to pick her brain, get advice, and grow closer to a character I’ve come to know and love would be such a gift. And when it’s all done we’d get to finish our adventure at Pemberley—I mean, who wouldn’t want that?
Pamela D., Basement
I didn’t start off liking Robert Frobisher from Cloud Atlas. From his affairs with married women to his thievery to his taking for granted those who had genuine affection for him, he seemed an all around despicable character. But as the novel progresses and Frobisher is revealed as a true artist with more than a touch of madness and sensitivity, he becomes one of my favorite characters in literature. So perhaps instead of his untimely demise, he and I could take off backpacking around Europe. Sure, there would be some bad times when his creative mania ran its course and he crashed while we were spending the night in a seedy hostel, but there would also be great times when he got us into the homes and good graces of famous composers, or we’d have adventures evading all kinds of people he’d gotten on the wrong side of. What’s more, his knowledge of the arts would make him the perfect companion for museum outings, and if we run out of money, his musical talent would give us the opportunity to busk in the streets of London or Prague. And perhaps after all that travel, Frobisher would end up learning something about himself, and that would be enough to keep him around to write another piece like the Cloud Atlas Sextet. For, as David Mitchell writes, “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.”
Rochelle T., Third Floor—Rare Books
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.