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On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road (1957)

by Jack Kerouac

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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19,214None83 (3.69)748
1001 (66) 1001 books (58) 1950s (105) 20th century (224) America (131) American (295) American fiction (63) American literature (363) autobiography (96) beat (777) Beat Generation (389) Beat Literature (90) beatnik (102) classic (355) classics (239) drugs (111) fiction (1,853) Jack Kerouac (60) Kerouac (108) literature (372) memoir (156) non-fiction (106) novel (357) own (88) read (229) road trip (208) to-read (201) travel (420) unread (104) USA (159)
  1. 111
    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (MyriadBooks)
  2. 73
    Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (thiagobomfim)
  3. 30
    Off the Road: My Years With Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg by Carolyn Cassady (Jannes)
    Jannes: Interesting behind-the-scenes look, and also something of an counterpoint to the tendency of over-romanticizing Jack and the gang that we, or at least I, are sometimes guiltily of. If you're a Beat-geek you can't really ignore this one.
  4. 52
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (hippietrail)
  5. 20
    The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac (soulster)
  6. 42
    On the Road: The Original Scroll (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by Jack Kerouac (rickybutler)
    rickybutler: If you still have the choice, do not pick up the originally-published edition and instead go for the Original Scroll. This should be on its way to replacing just plain ol' On the Road as the primo Kerouac (and even Beat) text for the adventurous romantics to become enamored with. More rhythm, more life, more of that depressing truth that filled Kerouac's subsequent work. It's a much stronger book.… (more)
  7. 10
    Théorie du voyage : Poétique de la géographie by Michel Onfray (askthedust)
  8. 21
    The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño (hippietrail)
  9. 00
    Big Sur by Jack Kerouac (John_Vaughan)
  10. 00
    One and Only: The Untold Story of On the Road by Gerald Nicosia (mrkay)
  11. 12
    Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar (caflores)
    caflores: Gente que busca y no sabe qué.
  12. 02
    Looking for Redfeather by Linda Collison (Linda.Collison)
    Linda.Collison: Looking for Redfeather was inspired in part, by Jack Kerouac's iconic story and is a 21st century homage to the novel. Kerouac's characters are older and less directed in their wanderings than the teens in Looking for Redfeather, who come of age on the road, yet they share the same restlessness and desire for life.… (more)
  13. 13
    The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West (hippietrail)
  14. 011
    Ye Ole Fiendly Towne and Other Whittier Zombie Haikus: Whittier is suddenly scoured with zombies! And just where is Doobie McDonald during these mayhaps...BAY-beh!? by Doobie McDonald (privycouncilpress)
    privycouncilpress: A road trip film symbolizing the mindtrip your soul will have while reading 'Ye Ole Fiendly Towne and Other Whittier Zombie Haikus"

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» See also 748 mentions

English (207)  French (5)  Italian (4)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (3)  German (3)  Danish (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (229)
Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
Kerouac misspelled Thelonious in this novel. Page 228: "..and meeting mad Thelonius [sic.] Monk."

This bothers me. And it bothers me that no one bothered to fix it, especially in this "Great Book of the 20th Century" edition. Kerouac also references a non-existent drummer named Max West (p.208) in the context of Dizzy. Pretty sure he meant Max Roach.

And finally on page 155 there's this: "Fort Lowell Road, out where Hingham lived, would [sic.] along lovely riverbed trees in the flat desert."

I think that was supposed to be "wound along lovely..."

Copy editors? ( )
  alienhard | Mar 26, 2014 |
"This can't go on all the time - all this franticness and jumping around. We've got to go someplace, find something."

Jack Kerouac's second novel On the Road was completed in 1951 following a lengthy process of compositional development. Published in 1957, it is considered definitive of the Beat Generation. It is written in an eccentric and wandering style that the author himself thought similar to the directly observational creative process of impressionist painters. He aimed to provide the reader with a pure portrayal of reality by neglecting the conventional methods of editing and revising, but rather emphasizing the raw passion of spontaneous living. The articulation and arrangement are intentionally non-formal, leading some critics to take it less seriously, but Kerouac wanted to contextualize the experiences with raw spirit and urgency of the moment. Kerouac writes with the spontaneous fluidity of bop-style jazz.

The book tells the story of Kerouac's (named Sal Paradise in the book, for which he serves as narrator) experiences with Neal Cassady ("Dean Moriarty") and other acquaintances (including Allen Ginsberg as "Carlo Marx" and William Burroughs as "Old Bull Lee") driving and hitchhiking back and forth across the United States and into Mexico. It is a romantic perspective of freedom on the open road, a life lived driving, riding, waiting, starving, drinking, dancing at jazz clubs, getting high, making sexual conquests, and hopelessly dreaming, a relentless individual search for meaning and connection in a capitalist America that valued conformism and was highly suspicious of social outlaws. For all its sensualism, this quest for purpose, faith, and connection is almost spiritual. It is a rejection of social conformity and mainstream culture in favor of a more profound experience ("IT"), or at least something more exciting than fitting in and being normal. Kerouac's language and style may be casual, but he manages to give an epic quality to the adventures, giving the events a deep sense of personal value for the participants.

The relationships between the (predominately male) characters is essentially reduced to elements of control, personal advantages, and various ideas of masculine self-discovery. The young men are trying to figure out how to mature in relation to their desires. Sal is looking for purpose and direction as he follows the seemingly inexhaustible Dean, all the while never finding fulfillment in the wild endeavors. With each adventure be becomes less excited and more reflective and self-aware. He begins to understand the limits of the open road's promise of total freedom, and considers himself in the context of what he desires out of life and what is expected of him. He wants to be a full man, not an eternal restless teenager like Dean, but struggles with what it means and how it will effect his friendship with Dean, who is the manifestation of all his chaotic urges. In the end, On the Road is a sad story of shattered dreams and fruitless endeavors. What makes it timeless is its depiction of deep loyal companionship and the eternal search for meaning.
1 vote AMD3075 | Feb 24, 2014 |
What motivates me to see the world. ( )
  JK135 | Feb 24, 2014 |
S.84: [...] An hour ago I'd thought she was a hustler. How sad it was. Our minds, with their store of madness, had diverged. [...]

S.125: [...] But I knew Dean loved Marylou, and I also knew Marylou was doing this to make Lucille jealous, and I wanted nothing of it. [...] ( )
  daniele4277 | Jan 11, 2014 |
It's hard to sum up my opinion on this. It isn't bad and I don't dislike it but... I'm inclined to agree with the comments I've heard of late, that essentially it's one of those things that had a shelf life, and it's now expired. It just doesn't relate to modern day; it's from another time and it doesn't have the pull that it once did, it doesn't reflect the same feelings and desires that fit in today's world. There's nothing at all wrong with the story, but I simply couldn't get properly interested in it, I wasn't excited to pick it back up. That said, I think the ending was well done and it bumped my opinion up a half-star.

After reading the introduction, I must add that I think Kerouac seems like he was an intelligent sensitive man, and its information made me look at the book a little differently and with a more positive view... but I won't change my rating, because the words on the pages haven't changed. This is one where I'd say read the intro first (Ann Charters), it doesn't spoil anything—I'm not sure there's many spoilers to be had in this book, it's autobiographical in nature and it's just, well, a story of the road—and it might give a better appreciation for the text. I'm thinking this is one book that might benefit from a reread in another decade or two.

I can no longer determine whether I think this book is obsolete or not. I suppose one will just have to read & determine for themselves. It was an interesting ride... ( )
  PolymathicMonkey | Jan 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 207 (next | show all)
With his barbaric yawp of a book. Kerouac commands attention as a kind of literary James Dean.
added by Shortride | editTime (Sep 16, 1957)

» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kerouac, Jackprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bueno, EduardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carradine, DavidReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Charters, AnnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Golüke, GuidoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jääskeläinen, MarkusTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lahtela, MarkkuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sauter, PeeterTÕlkija.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vandenbergh, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.
". . . and I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes 'Awww!'"
In the window I smelled all the food of San Francisco.   There were seafood places out there where the buns were hot, and the baskets were good enough to eat too; where the menus themselves were soft with foody esculence as though dipped in hot broths roasted dry and good enough to eat too.  Just show me the bluefish spangle on a seafood menu, and I'd eat it; let me smell the butter and lobster claws.  There were places where hamburgers sizzled on grills and the coffee was only a nickel.  And oh, that pan fried chow mein flavored air that blew into my room from Chinatown, vying with the spaghetti sauces of North Beach, the soft-shell crab of Fisherman's Wharf- nay, the ribs of Fillmore turning on spits! Throw in the Market street chili beans, red-hot, and french-fried potatoes of the Embarcadero wino night, and steamed clams from Sausalito across the bay, and that's ah-dream of San Francisco.  Add fog, hunger making, raw fog, and the throb of neons in the soft night, the clack of high heeled beauties, white doves in a Chinese grocery window.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Do not combine with On the Road: The Original Scroll
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140283293, Paperback)

The legendary 1951 scroll draft of On the Road, published word for word as Kerouac originally composed it

Though Jack Kerouac began thinking about the novel that was to become On the Road as early as 1947, it was not until three weeks in April 1951, in an apartment on West Twentieth Street in Manhattan, that he wrote the first full draft that was satisfactory to him. Typed out as one long, single-spaced paragraph on eight long sheets of tracing paper that he later taped together to form a 120-foot scroll, this document is among the most significant, celebrated, and provocative artifacts in contemporary American literary history. It represents the first full expression of Kerouac's revolutionary aesthetic, the identifiable point at which his thematic vision and narrative voice came together in a sustained burst of creative energy. It was also part of a wider vital experimentation in the American literary, musical, and visual arts in the post-World War II period.

It was not until more than six years later, and several new drafts, that Viking published, in 1957, the novel known to us today. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of On the Road, Viking will publish the 1951 scroll in a standard book format. The differences between the two versions are principally ones of significant detail and altered emphasis. The scroll is slightly longer and has a heightened linguistic virtuosity and a more sexually frenetic tone. It also uses the real names of Kerouac's friends instead of the fictional names he later invented for them. The transcription of the scroll was done by Howard Cunnell who, along with Joshua Kupetz, George Mouratidis, and Penny Vlagopoulos, provides a critical introduction that explains the fascinating compositional and publication history of On the Road and anchors the text in its historical, political, and social context.

Celebrating 50 Years of On the Road A 50th anniversary hardcover edition of Kerouac's classic novel that defined a generation. On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope, a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up. Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think): John Leland, author of Hip: A History argues that On the Road still matters not for its youthful rebellion but because it is full of lessons about how to grow up.

From the back cover of On the Road: The Original Scroll: Jack Kerouac displaying one of his later scroll manuscripts, most likely The Dharma Bums
Kerouac's map of his first hitchhiking trip, July-October 1947 (click image to see the full map)

Original New York Times review of On the Road (click image to see the full review)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:48 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Story of two restless young men in the late 1940s who cross and recross America, encountering parties, girls, drugs, loneliness and their own dreams along the way.

» see all 20 descriptions

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Five editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

Five editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182679, 0140265007, 0141037482, 0241951534, 0141198206

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An edition of this book was published by The Library of America.

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