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On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road (1957)

by Jack Kerouac

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
20,16025277 (3.69)801
  1. 111
    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson (MyriadBooks)
  2. 73
    Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (thiagobomfim)
  3. 52
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig (hippietrail)
  4. 52
    On the Road: The Original Scroll (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) by Jack Kerouac (rickyrickyricky)
    rickyrickyricky: 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)
  5. 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.
  6. 20
    The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac (soulster)
  7. 10
    Tredje stenen från solen : roman by Claes Holmström (Sawengo)
  8. 10
    Cigarett : roman by Per Hagman (Sawengo)
  9. 21
    The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño (hippietrail)
  10. 10
    Théorie du voyage : Poétique de la géographie by Michel Onfray (askthedust)
  11. 00
    Big Sur by Jack Kerouac (John_Vaughan)
  12. 00
    One and Only: The Untold Story of On the Road by Gerald Nicosia (mrkay)
  13. 12
    Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar (caflores)
    caflores: Gente que busca y no sabe qué.
  14. 13
    The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West (hippietrail)
  15. 010
    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"
1950s (18)
Read (91)
1960s (247)

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English (229)  French (6)  Italian (4)  Spanish (4)  Dutch (3)  German (3)  Danish (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (252)
Showing 1-5 of 229 (next | show all)
This is one of those books I've been hearing about for decades, but finally got the gumption to read. Unlike many classics, it lives up to its billing. Of course, there's no plot, and it doesn't read like fiction at all. Just travels back and forth across the country - in cars on the verge of falling apart or as hitchhikers down to their last few dollars. What makes the book so good is how real it is. The leading characters and all the folks they meet on the road. There's humor, there's pain, and most of all, there's truth. A reviewer on the back cover compares it to Huckleberry Finn. I liked this a lot better. ( )
1 vote datrappert | Sep 28, 2015 |
Jack Kerouac's novel On the road is unmistakenly a classic. The novel belongs to the early work of Kerouac. Prior to the publication of On the road he had written various short stories and shorter novels, but most of these were published posthumously, most even as late as during the first decade of the Twenty-First Century. When On the road was published in 1957, Kerouac had only one published novel to his name: The Town and the City (1950).

The early and later prose styles of Jack Kerouac are very different. The novel On the road falls in neither category. It is different altogether, although is shares characteristics with Kerouac's early prose style.

Kerouac's earlest prose was written during the 1930s and 1940s. His earliest collection of short stories, Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings was written between 1936 - 1943, and published in 1999. The Sea Is My Brother, long known as "the lost novel" was written in 1942, and published in 2011. Written in 1944, The Haunted Life and Other Writings consists of a fragment of a novel and other prose, was published 2014. A novella from the same period, 1944-5, Orpheus Emerged was published in 2002, while the novel, written jointly with William Burroughs, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks was written in 1945, and belatedly published in 2008. These early prose works are written in a fairly conventional prose style, although themes such as the search for freedom and detachment from convention can be found, besides the beginnings of an interest in experimentation with drugs.

In his later prose style, Kerouac's search for freedom and detachment from convention is pushed into his use of language. His late prose, written in a type of stream of consciousness is a wildly extatic outpour of verbiage, poetic at times, and often incoherent. Some of these prose texts were likely written while drunk or under the influence of drugs. The novel Big Sur aims to describe the main character's mental and physical deterioration as he is battling with advanced alcoholism. It is not really enjoyable to read.

On the road was written in 1951, in only three weeks time. The novel compounds seven years of experience "on the road" and is largely autobiographical. Kerouac developed a special technique for writing the novel, reducing distractions so that he could concentrate without interruptions. This led to the production of the first typescript of the novel, referred to as "the scroll". This so-called scroll was published in 2007 as On the Road: The Original Scroll.

It took six years to publish On the road. As explained in the excellent introduction to the Penguin Modern Classics edition, by Ann Charters preparation for publication involved extensive revision of the manuscript. Kerouac's editors asked him again and again to make extensive changes to the novel, both in structure and detail. Names of characters, originally real names of the core group of members of what was soon to become known as the Beat Generation were changed to fictional names. A critical reading and comparison with "the scroll" should reveal how extensively the regular edition of On the road was altered.

The quality of the prose of On the road clearly exceeds any of the prose written before. On the road is unmistakenly a classic. Its prose has a distinct, lyrical quality. It is a great work of fiction. However, in terms of the message it might convey, the novel is dense. Where critics see an epic, mythical journey, often compared with Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, this is not clear to the reader. While the original manuscripts is said to describe several journeys, these have been reworked in the final edition to present a single journey. On the road is somewhat boring because it focuses on one character, while the novel lacks a clear narrative.

On the road is a celebration of America. The experience of hitch-hiking and freedom of travelling all over the continent, and in its descriptions of their adventures on the road, and the places they pass through, the novel gives an attractive image of the United States. It is easy to see how the novel could inspire young people to go out and seek adventure, hitch-hiking "on the road".

Perhaps On the road is the best place to start when reading Kerouac for the first time. ( )
1 vote edwinbcn | Sep 4, 2015 |
Some good prose and very good descriptions. I didn't like the characters and how they treated other people and women were portrayed as something to use and discard. Some parts of the book were so manic they exhausted me. I've heard this is a classic because it was the first "stream of conscientious" novel. Whatever. ( )
  srtsrt | Aug 28, 2015 |
I love Will Patton, but unfortunately I felt his voice over powered the story for me. This is just a personal opinion and no complaint on the actor, who is awesome. It also didn't help that the story doesn't appeal to me personally. Sorry to be sexist but this is such a guy book or for those who lived during the period. For someone my age I just had a hard time dealing with the attitudes towards women and the way minorities were spoken of. It is a fascinating story filled with unique characters and really embodies the time in which it was written and lived. It reminded me of times of The Catcher in the Rye (yes, of course I understand the differences) it is just one of those self indulgent type of stories with self obsessed men and their buddy road trips. I enjoyed the final part of the story the best. Also much of the story is about Dean Moriarty who I thoroughly despised (Again I am a modern women) which affects my enjoyment of the story. I do recommend a read though as I mentioned before it really brings alive that period of time in America. And the conversations you can have are pretty much endless. And for intellectuals and lovers of this book don't go off on me and explain the brilliance of it to me, because I am just not going to get it. I am a simple 45 year old women who is not overly intellectual and just saying how I personally felt about the story. Now off to find some Tea ; ) ( )
  mountie9 | Aug 14, 2015 |
Sal, Dean, and all of the others are looking for something indefinable but missing from their lives. It is presented as some overarching truth that they never find. Their lives are spent intoxicated and drugged with a string of unloved and often under-aged sexual partners. They had an oddly pseudo-academic life before the book began but more and more use the methods described to attempt escape from the pain of real life. After watching how they (Dean especially) treat the lives of other people on the road, affect the livelihoods of small businesses in their path, and ignore the responsibility of raising the children they have created, it is really hard to empathize with them on their journey. Once it becomes clear that there is no hope for change and that most of the characters are really permanently broken, it feels pointless to finish this book. If this is truly the novel of the "Beat Generation," then it was a sadly lost generation. I think instead it is a novel of individuals seeking to feel the most intense sensations they can while contributing nothing, learning nothing, and actively causing harm to others- a lot like Tropic of Capricorn. ( )
  karmiel | Aug 12, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 229 (next | show all)
El Sal Paradise de todas las ediciones conocidas de esta novela mítica es aquí, al fin, Kerouac. Y también Cassady, Ginsberg y Burroughs aparecen con sus verdaderos nombres. Con la publicación del rollo original, la gesta viajera y existencial de En la carretera se vuelve autobiográfica de pleno derecho y a plena luz del día, sin censura alguna. Y el relato adquiere toda su potencia narrativa. El lector tiene en sus manos una suerte de manifiesto de la beat generation. Seguimos a Kerouac y a toda la cáfila que desfila por estas páginas en toda su desnudez y penuria. Precursores del movimiento hippy y la contracultura de finales de los años sesenta, los personajes de esta novela pululan sin rumbo por Norteamérica. La sed vital insatisfecha, la búsqueda de horizontes de sentido, de dicha y de conocimiento y los atisbos místicos se estrellan contra una realidad inhóspita y desesperanzada. Un vívido compendio de los grandes temas, y al tiempo una apasionante aventura humana y una metáfora de la existencia. «El rollo original de On the Road es una de las más veneradas y enigmáticas reliquias de la literatura moderna... Un texto fascinante» (James Campbell, The Times Literary Supplement).
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia
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 (85 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kerouac, Jackprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Charters, AnnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Golüke, GuidoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holmes, AndrewCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pivano, FernandaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sauter, PeeterTÕlkija.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vandenbergh, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
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.
Great beautiful clouds floated overhead, valley clouds that made you feel the vastness of old tumbledown holy America from mouth to mouth and tip to tip.
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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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Wikipedia in English (4)

Book description
A penniless writer named Sal Paradise becomes inspired to hitchhike across America, taking the listener on a freewheeling journey through the 1950s youth counterculture. Joining up with other fellow vagabonds who are in love with life and open to adventure, they explore jazz, sex, drugs, and mysticism on the fringes of society.

Credited as the book that launched Jack Kerouac's career, On the Road epitomized to the world the generation that Kerouac himself named as "beat." It created a sensation by chronicling a spontaneous and wandering way of life in a style that seemed founded both on jazz and on drug-induced visions.

Haiku summary

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:31 -0400)

(see all 8 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 21 descriptions

Legacy Library: Jack Kerouac

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5 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182679, 0140265007, 0141037482, 0241951534, 0141198206

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