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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
20,03724779 (3.69)792
  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 (25)
Read (91)
1960s (156)

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Showing 1-5 of 224 (next | show all)
Really, I begrudge this book its fourth star, but I can't justify anything less.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine read On the Road and didn't stop talking about it for months on end. It changed his life, apparently. Well, you know how it is when someone whose opinions you value loves a book; you want badly to love it too.

But I just couldn't get into it like he did. In terms of both content and style, I thought it was largely self-indulgent and irresponsible. When it's good, though, it is damn good. There are pages, even whole chapters, which deserve six starts out of five. They're filled to the brim and overflowing with exuberance and a raw sort of confusion and naivete mixed in with adoration for every experience. Kerouac/Sal's relationship to his America is fascinating, at once one of love and wonder but also of sadness and apprehension. The American night, for him, is sometimes dark with mystery and promise, other times with profound loneliness. The first pages of the book, all the way through Sal's first departure from Denver, held me in awe. Kerouac's descriptions of jazz in San Francisco and Chicago, of roaring New Year's parties in New York, of the relationship between the people and the river in New Orleans, of love and ethnicity in California vineyards—these all had me reeling with joy at reading them. Sure, there's some uncomfortable racism (more a racism of misunderstanding than of hatred), sexism, and general hedonism which I don't feel I can totally forgive, though I can understand that when a white man was raised in the early 20th century, it's highly unlikely that he could escape the influence of the first two and therefore must be partially excused. Yet it all comes through so innocently and excitedly; it's almost childlike, and that makes it feel like less of a problem. And that innocent excitement, the wide-eyed wonder of it, is part of the novel's appeal. In matters of style, I'm a traditionalist. I'd take the Joyce of Dubliners over the Joyce of Ulysses (of which, admittedly, I've only read bits thus far) any day (though, granted, Kerouac is somewhere in between and probably closer to the former). But the rambling, breathless style of the book does it some favors from time to time. It's an anxious scramble to dig it all and know time, as perhaps Dean Moriarty would put it, and it is therefore appropriate to the content, despite occasionally irritating me. I found it fitting that style broke down more as the book progressed—that breakdown maybe Dean's influence over our narrator—from the simple and clean sentences of the opening paragraph to the single sentence block of text that closes the book and only mostly makes sense.

If, as I've often entertained, a work's ultimate worth is best judged by the impression it leaves afterwards, On the Road can't be anything but effective. There were large swaths of it which I didn't care for one bit. A good deal of it lead me to think that Kerouac really thought much too highly of himself, or his other self, Sal. All in all, however, I can see why someone might be inclined to buy a cheap car and take off after finishing the book; it gets inside your head and makes you think, if just a little bit, like it thinks. ( )
1 vote Turambar | Jul 20, 2015 |
I find that I hate people who like this book. ( )
1 vote jscape2000 | Jun 29, 2015 |
On the face of it, this book promises so much. Maybe it was lost on me, but I just did not get it. I found it dull and monotonous. ( )
  rimbo90 | Mar 28, 2015 |
My first impression, as I started reading, was - wow, what an unrestricted, spontaneous tone of the narrative, and also - so boisterous, exuberant, and at the same time lyrical and often nostalgic. He relates his experiences frankly, very frankly, then ruminates and then talks again, describing this exalted urge to roam the vastness of the whole country, "crisscrossing the old map again" and again, yearning for something in the distance, sometimes with friends (one particular "crazy" fellow, Dean - Neal Cassady in real life - meeting on and off with him), sometimes all on his own, hitchhiking or driving a rented car, or taking a bus, having fun with girls, as young men would, but no commitments (even though he says at one point: "I want to marry a girl so I can rest my soul with her till we both get old"... - and what a pity the author died so young, at 47...). No desire for material possessions or settling down, not for the moment at least. This improvident, day to day type of living, constantly broke, but somehow making it...on his last trip even getting as far as Mexico where he gets severely sick...

He is ecstatic in the same way about picking cotton ("it was beautiful" - as simple as that, he observes, though he discovers soon how hard it is...) to earn his way, as about eating nothing but apple pie and ice cream (!), and then cherry pie as he crosses to Nebraska, while he still had the money at the beginning of his first trip... His description of pretty girls is just admiring every detail of their beauty in a candid way, and a desire to have them all... At times a crude description of rowdy events and cavorting about creeps into the narrative, at times - some deliriousness, "a complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows" as the travels go on, and at one time he describes himself as "a white man, disillusioned", with "white ambitions" that only hurt him, but on the whole, it's just this euphoric ecstasy of being young and unbound and yearning for new experiences (which later include trying of drugs, too, and even, "experimenting" with his buddy Dean's girlfriend - at Dean's own request!...)... Oh, that crazy, life-hungry Dean who says: "Now dammit, look here, all of you, we all must admit that everything is fine and there's no need in the world to worry, and in fact we should realize what it would mean to us to UNDERSTAND that we're not REALLY worried about ANYTHING"...

The variety of people J.Kerouac meets on his journey (his several journeys, in fact) across the country is astounding. His description of them is simple, straight from the heart, as if he himself learns as he travels. He listens and marvels as a cowboy describes Nebraska as "a big dust bowl" and Montana as "god's country" and so on...He re-establishes relations with old friends, and then leaves them again for more travels. He cannot stay put...It's autobiographical and all character names are changed names of real people in his life.

In an outburst of confession early in the book, J. Kerouac says: "...the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say commonplace thing, but burn, burn... " I think this says it all. ( )
1 vote Clara53 | Feb 25, 2015 |
Like rambling poetry ( )
  Alphawoman | Feb 22, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 224 (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 (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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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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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 22 descriptions

Legacy Library: Jack Kerouac

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

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Penguin Australia

5 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182679, 0140265007, 0141037482, 0241951534, 0141198206

The Library of America

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

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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