On the Road

On the Road

by Jack Kerouac

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac's years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, "a sideburned hero of the snowy West." As "Sal Paradise" and "Dean Moriarty," the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience. Kerouac's love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz combine to make On the Road an inspirational work of lasting importance.

Kerouac’s classic novel of freedom and longing defined what it meant to be “Beat” and has inspired every generation since its initial publication more than fifty years ago.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140042597
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/1976
Series: Penguin Orange Collection
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 19,135
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 7.72(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile: 940L (what's this?)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jack Kerouac(1922-1969), the central figure of the Beat Generation, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922 and died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969. Among his many novels are On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and Visions of Cody.

Read an Excerpt

part one
I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road. Before that I’d often dreamed of going West to see the country, always vaguely planning and never taking off. Dean is the perfect guy for the road because he actually was born on the road, when his parents were passing through Salt Lake City in 1926, in a jalopy, on their way to Los Angeles. First reports of him came to me through Chad King, who’d shown me a few letters from him written in a New Mexico reform school. I was tremendously interested in the letters because they so naively and sweetly asked Chad to teach him all about Nietzsche and all the wonderful intellectual things that Chad knew. At one point Carlo and I talked about the letters and wondered if we would ever meet the strange Dean Moriarty. This is all far back, when Dean was not the way he is today, when he was a young jailkid shrouded in mystery. Then news came that Dean was out of reform school and was coming to New York for the first time; also there was talk that he had just married a girl called Marylou.
(Continues…)



Excerpted from "On the Road"
by .
Copyright © 1976 Jack Kerouac.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Life is great, and few can put the zest and wonder and sadness and humor of it on paper more interestingly than Kerouac.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the angels dove off and flew into the holy void of uncreated emptiness, the potent and inconceivable radiancies shining in bright Mind Essence, innumerable lotus-lands falling open in the magic mothswarm of heaven.

In 1954 Jack Kerouac had a vision in a Catholic church in Lowell, Massachusetts, that told him that the real meaning of "Beat" was "Beatific," in the sense of converting alienation into spiritual transcendence. On the Road, first published in 1957, epitomized to the world what became known as "the Beat generation" and made Kerouac one of the most controversial and best-known writers of his time. Fictionalized as Dean Moriarty, Kerouac saw his friend Neal Cassady as an "archetypal American Man," and rendered his character both "Beatific," in the sense mentioned above, and "Beat," in the sense of being alienated from the mainstream of American middle-class life. In this novel of life on the road, experience for Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise, Kerouac's fictional alter ego, who shambles along after Dean's madcap adventures, must be intensified to strip one's rational preoccupations with this world and give them a sense of oneness with the All-Knowing God. In search of the ever elusive "IT," "the moment when you know all and everything is decided forever," the two friends' search for ecstasy takes them back and forth across the United States, and in one final trip down into Mexico, getting their kicks from all-night talk sessions, drunken parties, sex, drugs, an orgy with Mexican whores, and, most importantly, an exploration of jazz. Behind the wheels of numerous automobiles, the two young men zigzag across the continent "leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing [their] one and noble function of the time, move."

Upon publication, On the Road met with both praise and wild enthusiasm from papers as diverse as The Village Voice andThe New York Times, and an equal if not greater measure of skepticism and critical dismissal by the mainstream literary establishment. Rather than representing "a new trend in American literature," as Kerouac had claimed, On the Road was criticized for presenting "uncouth" characters (such as Allen Ginsberg as "Carlo Marx," and William Burroughs as "Old Bull Lee"), and the "frantic fringe" of delinquents (e.g., Herbert Huncke as "Elmo Hassel," the down-and-out Times Square hustler). One of the most sarcastic put-downs came from author Truman Capote, who responded to Kerouac's boast that he had created the original manuscript within a three-week burst of writing, with the snide comment, "That isn't writing; it's typing." In addition, within the avant-garde literary movements on the East and West coasts there was suspicion. Following the 1957 obscenity trial for Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl and publication of On the Road as covered in Time, Life andNewsweek, many radical artists felt that the sudden fame of the Beat phenomenon as a whole owed much to sophisticated packaging and promotional techniques. In fact, more than a few poets saw Kerouac's friend, Allen Ginsberg, a former adman, as more a crowd-pleasing publicity hound than a serious poet. The neo-romanticism of the beat writers obviously hit sensitive nerves in several literary camps, for different reasons, all at once. Those reviewers and writers who came to Kerouac's novel with a less biased eye, however, could not deny the ecstatic energy of his prose style, with its structural and emotive debt to the jazz music Kerouac so much loved.

What the Beats understood and identified with in jazz, was protest against the white middle-class world. As Sal Paradise observes in part one of the novel, "Every single one of us was blushing. This is the story of America. Everybody's doing what they think they're supposed to do." Kerouac intuitively understood that you can't have jazz without protest, and along with his Beat friends regarded jazz musicians like Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk as true American geniuses, heroes, and rebels. Just as Sal later thinks Dean "look(s) like God," while high on marijuana bumping along the back roads of Mexico, those jazz musicians who can really "blow" are the "prophets" and "shepherds" come to lead the straying but faithful back to "the golden world that Jesus came from." It is therefore not surprising that many of the freshest and most startling descriptive passages in On the Road are of roadhouse juke-joints and wild late-night jam sessions in urban jazz clubs filled with all the vagaries of nightlife one could imagine. In these scenes positioned throughout the novel to punctuate the emotional ups and downs of the road-weary heroes, one encounters Kerouac's most successful rendering of the simultaneity of antithetical images and meanings of both "down-and-out" and "beatific."

To achieve the improvisational creativity of the great jazz players, Kerouac experimented for several years before arriving at what Allen Ginsberg, referring to Kerouac's poetic sensibility, termed a "modality of consciousness," signifying the aesthetic recreation of jazz improvisation in the creative prose of On the Road. To "step across chronological time," so as to temporarily escape the linear road that could only end in death, Kerouac reassessed linearity not only at the level of individual sentences and paragraphs, but in allowing the plot of his novel to zigzag in a spatial, nonlinear relationship of language and form. This way of writing is what Kerouac called "spontaneous prose." Kerouac had not only an amazing ear for the rhythmic and patterned sounds of human speech, filled with alliterative play, but an extraordinary memory for the words he heard—sometimes complete conversations, which he sprinkles throughout his work. Not confined to concrete geographical details, Kerouac's inspired play of sound sets up an impressionistic canvas of forms, a cyclical movement of tropes become "riffs" that are integral to the notion of the hero and to the quest for "IT." Spontaneous prose, in Kerouac's definition, takes on the semblance of linguistic entities unaligned with the conventional subject-verb arrangement of English sentences, thereby, opening up the sense of time and allowing the movement, flashes, and fluctuations of jazz, and by extension, spiritual transcendence. Thus, Kerouac's "endless road" reveals his ultimately ironic stance about America—that it is beat. Tempered through drugs and drinking, sad and mournful, it remains true to Whitman's vision of a secularized heaven on earth, brought forward into the era of Bebop jazz.

In part three of On the Road, as all their friends take turns berating Dean for his selfish, reckless, and thoughtless behavior, Sal Paradise suddenly sees his friend Moriarty as "the Saint of the lot": "He was alone in the doorway, digging the street. Bitterness, recriminations, advice, morality, sadness—everything was behind him, and ahead of him was the ragged and ecstatic joy of pure being." Sal Paradise, like the real-life Kerouac, vacillated between the two poles of beat, the secular and the holy, in his search for the elusive "IT." "As we crossed the Colorado-Utah border I saw God in the sky in the form of huge gold sunburning clouds above the desert that seemed to point a finger at me and say, 'Pass here and go on, you're on the road to heaven.'" Soon thereafter, however, gazing out the car window at the Nevada desert landscape, Sal confesses that he's more interested in "some old rotted covered wagons and pool tables," weather-beaten signs with forgotten messages and names "still flapping in the haunted shrouded desert wind." Similarly, and throughout his life, Kerouac moved back and forth between the adventures he experienced with his beat friends, and the domesticity of his mother's home. In the novel, Sal Paradise transitions back and forth between his road trips with Dean and the home of his aunt in Paterson, New Jersey. The search for "IT" becomes the unending quest that both Kerouac in his writing, and Paradise in his spiritual hunger strive for without ever fully attaining—discovering the "joy of pure being" is experienced, at best, only fleetingly. "Isn't it true that you start your life a sweet child believing in everything under your father's roof? Then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you know you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life."

 


ABOUT JACK KEROUAC

Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac on March 12, 1922, the youngest of three children in a French-Canadian family in the factory town of Lowell, Massachusetts. The family lived in French-Canadian neighborhoods in Lowell and spoke the French-Canadian dialect of joual in their home. It was Kerouac's first language, and he spoke it in conversations with his mother, whom he called "Mamère," and lived with on and off throughout his adult life. He spent his childhood in Lowell, attending local Catholic and public schools, and his early adulthood in the East, attending Columbia College in New York City on a football scholarship. It was at Columbia College where he first met Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs.

Following a quarrel with the football coach in his sophomore year, Kerouac left Columbia College, joined the Merchant Marines, and sailed to various Atlantic and Mediterranean ports as a seaman during World War II. In 1944, he was arrested as a material witness, having failed to report a homicide committed by Lucien Carr, one of his friends at Columbia. Believing him to have "disgraced the family name," his father refused to post the $100 bail. On the condition that Jack marry Edie Parker, an art student at Columbia through whom he'd first met Lucien Carr, his father came up with the money. Jack and Edie separated soon afterwards, however, and Kerouac signed aboard another merchant ship.

His first book, The Town and the City, published in 1950, was an attempt to explain "everything to everybody." Kerouac had borrowed the style and structure of Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel as his literary model for The Town and the City, but grew dissatisfied with the conventional result. As he later stated in a note prefacing his collection of poetry, Mexico City Blues: "I want to be considered a jazz poet blowing a long blues in an afternoon jam session on Sunday." In a struggle to fashion a method of writing that could capture the freedom and creativity of Bebop in his prose fiction, Kerouac's encounter with Neal Cassady, whom he would portray as Dean Moriarty in On the Road, proved to be pivotal. Cassady was visiting from Denver with his teenage wife, LuAnne, and staying with Hal Chase, a student at Columbia. Having grown up in Denver, living in skid row hotels with his alcoholic father, and serving time in a reformatory for stealing cars and joyriding, Cassady later decided to become a writer by learning how to write from Kerouac and Ginsberg. At first disconcerted by Cassady's tough looks and demeanor, Kerouac's second meeting with Neal early in 1947, described in the opening chapter of On the Road, opened him to the world of sex, drugs, and other wild "experiments" of his Columbia friends.

As early as 1948, Kerouac had begun writing and making notes for the book he was already calling "On the Road." Following initial bursts of excitement and hope for the project, he ended up dissatisfied, believing his work was too imitative of his models, Theodore Dreiser and Thomas Wolfe, and that his writing failed to capture the spontaneity and freedom of his "road" adventures. Having returned to his mother's home from one of his trips in February 1949, and emotionally shattered by his wild rides with Cassady, he realized his "factualist" attempts at his "road book" could not be salvaged. In November 1950, feeling his life was drifting, Kerouac impulsively married for a second time a woman he had met a short time before in New York named Joan Haverty. Back in Denver, Cassady had begun writing letters to Jack that stunned both him and his new wife, Joan, with their loose, rambling sentences and meticulously detailed observations. Thinking Cassady's letters "among the best things ever written in America," as well as being inspired by the honesty of Burroughs' first-person narratives of his drug addiction, Kerouac finally found the catalyst he needed to break with his earlier literary models, making the decision to "write it as it happened."

In April 1951, taping together twelve-foot-long sheets of tracing paper, and feeding them into his typewriter as a continuous roll, Kerouac completed On the Road in a marathon burst of typing that lasted three weeks. Discouraged that his "road" book, along with several other novels and collections of poetry written between 1952 and 1957 were continually turned down by New York publishers, Kerouac gave up on the publishing world and turned to Buddhist practice. In 1953, he began writing reading notes on Buddhism for his friend, Allen Ginsberg. As his Buddhist study intensified, what had begun as notes evolved into an all-encompassing work of nonfiction, incorporating poems, haiku, prayers, journal entries, meditations, fragments of letters, ideas about writing, overheard conversations, sketches, blues, and more. The final manuscript (published as Some of the Dharma by Viking in 1997) was completed in 1956, to become part of what Kerouac thought of asThe Duluoz Legend.

Kerouac was thirty-five years old when On the Road was published in 1957. The media response was unrelenting, and he was besieged with questions about the lifestyle he had described in his novel. Kerouac was never able to convince his critics that the Beat Generation was "basically a religious generation," and that the specific object of their quest was spiritual. And unfortunately, he never managed to gather all his autobiographical novels together in a uniform binding published with the names of the "real life" people returned to them. He died from abdominal hemorrhaging brought on by his alcoholism on October 21, 1969 in St. Petersburg, Florida, where he had gone to live a year before with his third wife and invalid mother.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • At the beginning of the novel, Sal Paradise admits to having ambivalent feelings about Dean, at first thinking him to be a little too tough, a real streetkid. Later, his feelings toward his friend change, though still mixed, as he calls him an "idiot," and an "imbecile," but also a "saint," and finally "the HOLY GOOF." Do you think Sal's opinion about Dean's character and intelligence is ever completely resolved? Why? Why not?
     
  • During Sal's first road trip west, he laments that "Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together." How does this observation, early in the novel, set the stage for the relationship between Sal Paradise and Terry, his Mexican girlfriend? Why doesn't he ever mention Terry's last name?
     
  • How does Dean Moriarty's obsession with sex and women compare to Sal's experience? Does Sal look upon his friend's "success" in bed with admiration, envy, or something else?
  • What part do women play in the core emotional relationship between Sal and Dean?
     
  • Though many of his poet and artist friends were gay, Kerouac, as revealed in his personal correspondence and journals, considered homosexuality to be a fault, a sin, a vice. In On the Road, Sal's friend Carlo Marx (based on Allen Ginsberg) is openly gay. What is the attitude of Sal Paradise toward gays and lesbians in Kerouac's novel? What is Dean's attitude?
     
  • At the end of every adventure with Dean, Paradise returns home to his aunt, in Paterson, New Jersey. Is Kerouac's novel a convincing demonstration that mainstream middle-and-working-class values are inherently incompatible with the Beat lifestyle and philosophy of the road?
     
  • Whenever Sal and Dean have the chance to hear music, they choose jazz. What explains the dedication these characters have for this sophisticated African-American urban art form? What does Kerouac believe the jazz musician represents?
     
  • Almost every time that Paradise waxes poetic about heaven, God, and the road, shortly thereafter the topic of Death rears its head. How does Kerouac imagine the relationship between what Sal thinks of as heavenly bliss and the finality of death?
  • At one point on the road, Sal wonders, "for what's heaven? what's earth? All in the mind." What is heaven for Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise? Do they share the same ideal, believe in the same kind of "heaven"?
     
  • Some critics have claimed that the world Kerouac depicts in On the Road glorifies the deeds of uneducated, criminal young men leading irresponsible lives, committing sacrilegious acts. Given today's low tolerance for youthful rebellion, particularly drug use, do you find the behavior of Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise repugnant and totally inappropriate? Do you think Kerouac is approving or critical of his characters' behavior?
     
  • Why do you think On the Road, after more than forty years since its original publication, still maintains a magnetic hold on American youth culture? Is the novel's significance to your generation different from its significance to younger and to older generations? How has the meaning of On the Road changed for you since your first encounter with it?
     

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On the Road 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 376 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Okay, Kerouac was a talented writer. That is plain to see, and anybody who doesn't see it I feel sorry for. And while On the Road was an enjoyable read, one that I don't regret nor ever will, I still can't help but feel disapointed. This was supposed to be meaningful...where is the meaning? Generally, I'm better than most people at finding allegories within works of fiction, being a nit-picky satirist myself. I can give you symbolism for every event in Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. I can give you the moral, philosophical points of Burgess' A Clockwork Orange. I can decode the works of Burroughs. But 'On the Road' left me feeling like it was pointless...a good, enjoyable read, but...pointless. So here's my advice: Read the book, don't believe the hype. Enjoy the story, but don't expect it to be life-changing, intellectually charged, and allegorically moral, like so many fans want you to believe.
DStan58 More than 1 year ago
To anyone with a wildly out of control friend, that one who makes you crazy but you just can't quit, the story of Sal and Dean will send echos through your head. To anyone who wants to intimately know the post-WWII wanderlust that struck so many Americans, to anyone who wants to know how the Beats and the hippies came to be, this is the bible. Genius.
GeorgyPorgy More than 1 year ago
The most useful purpose On the Road serves is not as a great character exploration - which it is - or as a wild adventure story - which it isn't - but as for better understanding a generation of people inspired by it. In some ways, it's a book about nothing, a book about drifting... which sometimes makes for an aimless narrative, but does capture the way so many have wandered after. The most appropriate thing about this nook version is that you can take Kerouac's classic on the road with you:)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jack Kerouac sets out to capture the essence of his beat generation in to one book and for the most part is successful. On the Road chronicles Sal Paradise, an archetype of the beat generation, and his aimless ramblings across the continental US. Living penniless and destitute, Sal travels cross-country several times meets many different people and places, including but not limited to, drunken southern californian vineyard adventures, the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and nocturnal guard shifts at a prison in seattle. The story is interesting and captivating, especially with the broadness of it which makes it relatable to almost anyone's own life experience. Sal's search for a home and a lover and beer, is similar to the younger generation of today, perhaps even the origin. Kerouac's reference towards other Beat Generation notables and friends, like his nod toward Neil Cassady under the guise of Dean Moriarty, gives the reader a sense of who these character's really were and most importantly, what the generation stood for. At times, the narrative can be dull and move slow however, possibly On the Road's greatest strength is that it is realistic, showing an un-biased, impartial perspective of the beat's. Kerouac chooses to leave nothing out, showing a brutal honest picture of the beat generation, the good, the bad and the down right weird. In doing this, he best captures the purpose of the beats. The book is not short of powerful, thought provoking moments which humble the reader, as it should. On the Road is one of the 20th centuries greatest literary achievements.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book started off strong for me and I got into it really fast. About halfway through I started to really hate the characters particularly Sal but I still wanted to keep reading and I am glad that I did. While the characters were completely unlikable to me the way this story shows the expanse of America and represents a different side of this generation than what I am used to reading is great. I definitely thing everyone should read this book it might not be the best book you have ever read but you won't regret reading it!
coolworld888 More than 1 year ago
On the Road is written by Jack Kerouac, published by Penguin in 1955. This book is considered to be an authentic representation of the movement in our society called the "Beat Generation." The book tells of Sal Paradise, and his decision to travel from New York to California during the late forties and early fifties, a time when the nation was recovering from the effects of World War II. The music of the time changed from a swing beat to jazz; this was a change from what was known, to something with a beat--jazz was edgy and different. This change in music was indicative of the change in young people, and this is the adventure from which Kerouac writes, because he was part of this beat generation.
Raven_Nevermore2004 More than 1 year ago
On The Road is a simplistic story about a man who wanted to make a drastic change with his life. Most people don't have the guts to do it. Sal Paradise was unhappy living his life as it was so took off for the west coast in search of...meaning. It was something he was skeptical in doing at first, but his buddy Dean Moriarty was sure this is what he needed. Dean is the extreme adventurous type who can never stay in one place for too long. He is the proof that as much as people need to mix it up, everything needs to be done in moderation. This gives hope to those who would like to have the option to escape from it all. It shows that it can be done. Sal experiences what life is like all throughout the country again and again. It's a scenic trip the whole time that I would recommend to any reader with a free spirit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and it made me a Kerouac fan for life. I can't wait to see the new movie adaptation and read Big Sur. A lot of people either love or hate the "Beat" generation and writings, I'm firmly in the LOVE camp.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have seen life differently since I have finished this book. Its a great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story based on free spirit and free love just before the hippie era
antimater More than 1 year ago
a classic american read
Walcott More than 1 year ago
A beautiful novel by a beautiful author, Jack Kerouac has blessed us all with this esoteric, truly original piece of art. The way Kerouac writes should be seen as abstract, for it's by no means technical nor should it be treated as such. With that notion, this novel could use a bit more structure, but I think the sporadic writing is what makes this novel work. All in all, the characters are believable and dastardly charming while the mildly philosophical statements are perfection and not at all over the top. Thank you, Mr. Kerouac, for providing such wonderful escapism.
Anonymous 2 days ago
classic!
mhgatti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's been a long while since I read this, but I found it annoying.
jvalka on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm pretty sure that I first read this back in high school, but it may have been in college.  I remember being blown away by the conclusion, where Dean abandons Sal in Mexico as he is infected with dysentery.  He's spent the whole book idolizing and emulating Dean, only to be betrayed.  Mary Lou hints at this ending in San Francisco and Sal doesn't deny it, but rather seems resigned.  Really this book is about him, "the holy goof."  He makes life on the road look like such a romantic, adventurous proposition, but in the end it's rootless and empty: unsatisfying in the end.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Audiobook.....the highlight of this book was narration by Will Patton. He does an excellent job with this book and has on others that I have read. What can I say that hasn't already been said about this novel? It is almost anti-climactic to read it after living with its icon status for so long. I enjoyed it, was not wowed by it, yet realize that at the time it was written it was groundbreaking. The writing was excellent, and I think I give it four stars because I know that because of groundbreaking, stream-of-consciousness first person narratives such as this, others have thrived. It was a bucket list read, and worthwhile to boot!
addictivelotus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is essentially what I would call a rite of passage. And yet, ironically (and I fully realize that using that word puts me right with the people I'm against in this), it has also come to represent a variety of clichés throughout the "creative" world. It's mocked by literary snobs and hipsters alike, especially when yet another young creative soul finds inspiration in that often quoted passage, "the only ones for me are the mad ones."I find such judgements to be harsh. Kerouac's writing has inspired several generations since On the Road's initial publication. It's subtly in it's message that life is in the living and the creating alongside it's subversive stream of consciousness style and honesty, makes this classic an essential read during adolescence and then again in your twenties, thirties, fourties, all throughout your life. Each time a different perspective on the work and it's meaning to you will surely be gained.A classic.
phebj on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this for a book club meeting at the same time I was doing a LT group read on Wallace Stegner's "When the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs." It worked out well because Stegner talks about western literature and specifically comments on "On the Road" several times. In one of those references, Stegner says "Look at any book that is western in its feel . . . and you will find that it is a book not about place but about motion, not about fullfillment but about desire. There is always a seeking, generally unsatisfied." (Bluebird, p. 138) "On the Road" takes place in the late 1940s and tells the story of the relationship and travels of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, two unsettled 20-something young men. It is based on Jack Kerouac's ("Sal") travels with Neal Cassady ("Dean") and their circle of friends, including prominent Beat Generation writers like Allen Ginsberg ("Carlo Marx") and William Burroughs ("Bull Lee"). Most of the road trips seem aimless, although Dean is always hopeful of finding his drifter of a father. The writing style is often stream of conciousness and works well in conveying a sense of restlessness. (I especially loved the writing when it described the jazz music they listened to.) Below are some quotes I underlined in the book: On one of the road trips, Sal is on a bus "zooming across the Arizona desert" at dawn. He has a book with him but he prefers "reading the American landscape." (p. 103) On another trip, Sal describes the contrast between the "soft sweet East" and the "great dry West" (p. 236) and the "enormous loneliness . . . as you move across the Mississippi." (p. 267) To Sal and Dean "the road is life." (p. 212) The destination is not that important. At one point, this exchange takes place between Sal and Dean: Dean--"Sal, we gotta go and never stop going till we get there." Sal--"Where are we going, man?" Dean--"I don't know but we gotta go." (p. 240) Dean seems to live just on the edge (and sometimes over it) of sanity. On p. 232, Sal comments that "It was remarkable how Dean could go mad and then suddenly continue with his soul--which I think is wrapped up in a fast car, a coast to reach, and a woman at the end of the road--calmly and sanely as though nothing had happened." Sal and Dean part many times in the book and at one of those leave-takings, Sal says "Dean walked off in the long red dusk. . . . He made one last signal. I waved back. Suddenly, he bent to his life and walked quickly out of sight. I gaped into the bleakness of my own days. I had an awful long way to go too." (p. 254) When Sal finally settles down in New York at the end of the book, he reflects on his time travelling with Dean. "So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, . . ., and nobody, nobody knows what's going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty." (p. 307) I ended up giving this book 4 stars. I generally loved the writing and the feel of the book but it did bog down a bit in the middle. As a result of reading "On the Road", I'm now planning to re-read the "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" by Tom Wolfe, to see if Neal Cassady is really as crazy as he seems to be, and "Off the Road" by Carolyn Cassady, to find out why she put up with him.
TheBentley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the book that "turned on" a generation? Seriously?!? I suppose you have to give it credit for paving the way for other writers--like Kesey and Mailer, for instance--who were actually able to write well about beat and hippie culture. If I could give credit to Kerouac for a little more post-modern sensibility--which I don't think I can--I would say it's a clever joke on the reader. These characters could never muster the sheer commitment and grim determination that it took me to get through this book....
eesti23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On The Road tells the story of Jack Kerouac's adventures on the road, often with Neal Cassady. Meant to be one of the best examples of the 'beat' generation, On The Road focuses on the open road, detail, jazz and the quest for meaning and experience.Personally, I found the book quite interesting although there were times when I found the excessive detail a bit boring (e.g. the descriptions of jazz). However, the journeys and even the life in the different towns and cities was interesting. There is a range of characters in the book, which can at times be difficult to keep track of especially as they are mentioned in one chapter then completely forgotten about and then mentioned again.An interesting read...
miriamparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book when I read it in high school, but I realize when I hear people talking about it that I have absolutely no memory of it whatsoever.
duck2ducks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What I liked about this book: the rhythm of the language.

What I disliked: Most everything else. The lack of direction, plot, or ambition (in both the novel and the characters). The pointless wanderings. Dean's near-constant verbal diarrhea, and Sal's inexplicable fervor for him. The almost total lack of women as anything other than disposable sex objects.

Words I am sick of reading in the same paragraph, again and again, for page after page: "Sad", "sorrow", "lonely", and especially "mournful".

Yeesh. Haven't been this underwhelmed by a book in a long long time.
balzigore on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
3/2/07 - I've been reading this since late last month. What a chore. Drudgery, tediosity, sloggery. At this point, I've decided I don't like it. My purpose now is in finishing the book so I can hate it more intelligently. Due to its influence, I can relate this book now to Dylan and Springsteen's work; I don't GET them, either. I sure hope there's a payoff before too long. I just got into Part 2 and have lowered my expectations a great deal.
JosephJ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good book. Dragged on a little in the middle, but I enjoy reading about those who pick up and travel. It also helped to know that this was based on Kerouac's real-life experiences, otherwise I probably would have been annoyed at the young, naive protagonist. Probably best read when in your early twenties.
BAP1012 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not what I expected and I'm glad that gang never met my daughter. I found beautiful phrases and wonderful imagery nestled in amongst nastiness. I can only imagine the uproar this book caused when published in the 50's.