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On the Road by Jack Kerouac
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On the Road (original 1957; edition 1976)

by Jack Kerouac

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22,37430956 (3.68)874
Member:emily_morine
Title:On the Road
Authors:Jack Kerouac
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (1976), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:20thcentury, 1950's, beatnik, firstperson, journey, men, menfriends, menandwomen, friends, america, american, travel, writers, poets, artists, workingclass, family, sex, alcohol, adventure, classic, xy

Work details

On the Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)

  1. 122
    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (MyriadBooks)
  2. 82
    On the Road The Original Scroll by Jack Kerouac (alaskayo)
    alaskayo: 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)
  3. 73
    Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (thiagobomfim)
  4. 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.
  5. 53
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig (hippietrail)
  6. 20
    The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac (soulster)
  7. 10
    Cigarett : roman by Per Hagman (Sawengo)
  8. 10
    Go by John Clellon Holmes (gbill)
  9. 10
    Théorie du voyage : Poétique de la géographie by Michel Onfray (askthedust)
  10. 21
    The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño (hippietrail)
  11. 10
    Tredje stenen från solen : roman by Claes Holmström (Sawengo)
  12. 00
    The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon (CGlanovsky)
  13. 00
    Big Sur by Jack Kerouac (John_Vaughan)
  14. 00
    One and Only: The Untold Story of On the Road by Gerald Nicosia (mrkay)
  15. 12
    Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar (caflores)
    caflores: Gente que busca y no sabe qué.
  16. 13
    The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West (hippietrail)
  17. 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 (6)
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1960s (170)
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Showing 1-5 of 282 (next | show all)
Summary: Kerouac's classic account of Sal and Dean's travels across America, laced with jazz, elicit drugs, sexual encounters, and jazz clubs, and the searching for "IT" that defined the "Beat Generation."

September 5, 2017 marked the 60th anniversary of the publication of On the Road. Penguin Classics has reissued it as part of its Penguin Orange Collection of twelve influential American classics. This was one of those books I grew up with. I was a child during the Beat Generation and came of age in the Hippie Generation that followed it. But I never read the book. Recently, perhaps drawn by Penguin's cool re-packaging of this book, I finally picked it up and read it. I came to the end of the book thinking that I really hadn't missed anything by not having read it sooner. Perhaps I might have had a different take back in my teens, or twenties--but then we'll never know, will we?

The plot is basically a narrative of several road trips back and forth across America, and into Mexico. The two main characters are Sal Paradise (the narrator) and Dean Moriarty, thinly disguised representations of Kerouac, and his friend Neal Cassady, who took similar, real-life journeys. Other characters are inspired by "Beat Generation" friends such as Allen Ginsberg ("Carlo Marx"). The story consists of journeys across the country, often at high speeds if Dean is driving, punctuated by stops in various cities, most notably Denver, for some reason, filled with heavy drinking, illicit drugs, sex with whomever is willing, children by several women, and brushes with the law. Visits to jazz clubs in New Orleans and elsewhere seems to be the ultimate expression of their quest for "IT" which is never defined but perhaps approached during a jazz set. One of the noteworthy passages is this description of listening to George Shearing:

"The drummer, Denzil Best, sat motionless except for his wrists snapping the brushes. And Shearing began to rock; a smile broke over his ecstatic face; he began to rock in the piano seat, back and forth, slowly at first, then the beat went up, and he began rocking fast, his left foot jumped up with every beat, his neck began to rock crookedly, he brought his face down to the keys, he pushed his hair back, his combed hair dissolved, he began to sweat. The music picked up. The bass player hunched over and socked it in, faster and faster, it seemed faster and faster, that's all. Shearing began to play his chords; they rolled out of the piano in great rich showers, you'd think the man wouldn't have time to line them up. They rolled and rolled like the sea. Folks yelled for him to 'Go!' Dean was sweating; the sweat poured down his collar. 'There he is! That's him! Old God! Old God Shearing! Yes! Yes! Yes!" And Shearing was conscious of the madman behind him, he could hear every one of Dean's gasps and imprecations, he could sense it though he couldn't see. 'That's right!' Dean said. 'Yes!' Shearing smiled; he rocked. Shearing rose from the piano, dripping with sweat; these were his great 1949 days before he became cool and commercial. When he was gone Dean pointed to the empty piano seat. 'God's empty chair, he said."

This gives you a sense of the writing style one finds throughout the book. It feels breathless and frenetic. Kerouac supposedly was trying to use an improvisational style of writing that was not unlike jazz improvisation. The work was typed on a scroll consisting of tracing paper sheets cut to size and taped together into a 120 foot scroll. The book was typed out single space without paragraph breaks, and later edited to its present form. That, perhaps, helps explain the feel of the book.

The work is clearly an important artifact of cultural history, chronicling the Beat Generation rebellion against standard values and material aspirations, it's embrace of transgressive sexuality, and the quest for the transcendent through music and mind-altering drugs. It also captures something of the American love affair with the road--a fast car, an open road, a cross-country journey. Coming on the heels of World War II, it describes one response to the horrors of that war, and perhaps all our wars that have followed. In some way, the book seems to me to articulate the alternate American Dream to the one of affluence in suburbia, a playing out of the Dionysian versus Appolonian dichotomy.

I'm struck by the fact that the principle characters are men, who seem like boys living an extended adolescence--living off others, refusing responsibility for their sexuality, for the damage they leave, and depending upon women to fill the gaps they leave while indulging in their relentless pursuit of IT on the road (which mostly seems to be drunkenness and sex). It took us until the 1990's and Thelma and Louise to see two women pursuing the same kind of journey, with a glorious, or very bad end, depending on how you look at it.

Besides the fact that there is so little of the actual grandeur of the country they crisscrossed, what most troubles me is "the road not taken" by Sal and Dean. So often, their path is portrayed as the courageous protest against conventional, materialistic values. But I watched my parents, and others of their generation, Kerouac's generation, choose a life shaped by their religious commitments, one shaped by faith in God that faced life's tragedies and mysteries and one shaped by love of the "until death do us part" kind that translated into the hard and rewarding work of really learning to live with another fractious human being and to raise children to responsible adulthood. They enjoyed the good things of life as gift and not quest, and as meant to be shared with others rather than to be indulged in to excess. Their presence helped neighborhoods, workplaces, and civic organizations flourish.

Perhaps for some, going "on the road" ends up being a kind of pilgrimage that leads to insight and forms character. Far too often, though, it seems to me that those who emulated Sal and Dean simply ended up as alcoholics, or potheads no longer able to put two thoughts together. Often they have left a trail of wrecked lives behind them, and exist on the charity of others. Other than the portrayals of a golden age of jazz, and understanding a "cultural moment," I found little to inspire me, or provoke thought, and certainly not a life I could commend. ( )
  BobonBooks | May 13, 2018 |
Sal Paradise and his friends make madcap trips across the width of the U.S. These trips abound of freedom but Sal and his friends are lonely. This is probably why the book is a classic. With this book, I am also beginning to see the differences between British classics and American classics. The latter comprising books like American Pastoral, The Adventures of Augie March and this one, are written in a rambling style which can be very difficult to read. British literature is more crisp. ( )
  siok | May 5, 2018 |
The literary equivalent of a root canal, *On the Road* is a novel to be endured rather than enjoyed. A profound sense of relief enveloped me as I finished reading the book, primarily because it meant that I would no longer be forced to tolerate the obnoxious and noxious presence of Dean Moriarty, who—while not evil or villainous in the most obvious sense of those words—is certainly one of the most unlikeable characters I have ever encountered within the pages of a novel.

Dean is an irrepressible iconoclast—a man without principles, without values, without stability, without a conscious, without a moral compass, without any sense of what might be considered maturity or responsibility. He is unrestrained id. And for nearly 300 pages, he infects the life of Sal Paradise, the narrator, who seems inexplicably drawn to Dean much as a junkie is to his drug of choice. Sal’s fixation on Dean ranges from obsession to admiration, and it begs comparison to Nick Carraway’s fixation on Jay Gatsby—and while both Dean and Gatsby are icons of their respective historical and sociocultural contexts, Gatsby, for all his flaws, was at least capable of love. Dean, on the other hand, epitomizes hedonism, even abandoning Sal as he suffers from dysentery in the mountains of Mexico.

It pains me to admit that I did not enjoy this novel. I know that it is widely regarded as one of the great works of twentieth century American literature, and I appreciate it for its value as a landmark of historical literary importance, but its principal worth lies in its distinct difference from most other works of acknowledged literary merit. And like a trip to the dentist, I was most grateful when I was done with it. ( )
  jimrgill | Apr 17, 2018 |
Did not enjoy the style or the narrative at all. Far too much hype ( )
  bluecastro | Mar 18, 2018 |
Not impressed at all. Couldn't wait to finish it. ( )
  Denicbt | Feb 5, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 282 (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
 

» Add other authors (85 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kerouac, Jackprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jack Kerouacmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Charters, AnnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Golüke, GuidoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holmes, AndrewCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pivano, FernandaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sauter, PeeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vandenbergh, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up.
Quotations
". . . 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.
'You have absolutely no regard for anybody but yourself and your damned kicks. All you think about is what's hanging between your legs and how much money or fun you can get out of people and then you just throw them aside. Not only that but you're silly about it. It never occurs to you that life is serious and there are people trying to make something decent out of it instead of just goofing all the time.'
Every one of these things I said was a knife at myself. Everything I had ever secretly held against my brother was coming out: how ugly I was and what filth I was discovering in the depths of my own impure psychologies.
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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 (2)

Book description
Sal Paradise, un giovane newyorkese con ambizioni letterarie, incontra Dean Moriarty, un ragazzo dell'Ovest. Uscito dal riformatorio, Dean comincia a girovagare sfidando le regole della vita borghese, sempre alla ricerca di esperienze intense. Dean decide di ripartire per l'Ovest e Sal lo raggiunge; è il primo di una serie di viaggi che imprimono una dimensione nuova alla vita di Sal. La fuga continua di Dean ha in sé una caratteristica eroica, Sal non può fare a meno di ammirarlo, anche quando febbricitante, a Città del Messico, viene abbandonato dall'amico, che torna negli Stati Uniti.
(piopas)
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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 21 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

4 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182679, 0140265007, 0141037482, 0141198206

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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HighBridge

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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