On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road

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...

Title:On the Road
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0140042598
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:307 pages

On the Road Reviews

  • Adam
    Apr 24, 2007

    I'm supposed to like

    , right? Well, I don't. I hate it and I always have. There are a lot of reasons why I hate it. I find Kerouac's attitude toward the world pathetically limited and paternalistic. In

    he actually muses about how much he wishes that he could have been born "a Negro in the antebellum South," living a simple life free from worry, and does so seemingly without any sense of irony. On every page, the book is about how Kerouac (a young, white, middle-class, so

    I'm supposed to like

    , right? Well, I don't. I hate it and I always have. There are a lot of reasons why I hate it. I find Kerouac's attitude toward the world pathetically limited and paternalistic. In

    he actually muses about how much he wishes that he could have been born "a Negro in the antebellum South," living a simple life free from worry, and does so seemingly without any sense of irony. On every page, the book is about how Kerouac (a young, white, middle-class, solipsistic alcoholic) feels, and nothing more. But that's only one reason I hate this book. The main reason I hate it is because, for me, reading Kerouac's prose is almost physically painful. I love the ramblings of self-centered drunks when they're self-deprecating, ironic, and/or funny, but Kerouac was none of these things. He was a pretentious, self-important bore who produced some of the most painfully bad and inconsequential prose of the 20th century. Or any century.

  • Jahn Sood
    Jun 09, 2007

    I've been thinking about this book a lot lately, so I figured that I'd go back and write something about it.

    When I first read this book, I loved it as a piece of art, but its effect on me was different than I expected. So many people hail Kerouac as the artist who made them quit their jobs and go to the road, become a hippie or a beat and give up the rest. When I read it though, I had been completely obsessed with hippie culture for a long time, and it caused me to steer away from it for a whil

    I've been thinking about this book a lot lately, so I figured that I'd go back and write something about it.

    When I first read this book, I loved it as a piece of art, but its effect on me was different than I expected. So many people hail Kerouac as the artist who made them quit their jobs and go to the road, become a hippie or a beat and give up the rest. When I read it though, I had been completely obsessed with hippie culture for a long time, and it caused me to steer away from it for a while. While I thought that it would be a rollicking tale of freedom and glory, I found that all of Dean's conquests were tainted by the fact that he had to take advantage of other people every step of the way. He was a hugely entertaining character, but would have been a terrible friend, lover, or even acquaintance. From the women he married to gas station attendents, right down to Sal Paradise himself, Dean drained everything that he was right out of other people, and it eventually ruined him. It left him beat...not heart beating exhilarated, but beat up, dead beat and alone. Once I stepped back a little from the awe at Dean's greatness, this book was really sad, and it caused me to put away that romanticism for a while.

    Now, 2 years later, though, On the Road is coming back to me full on. I didn't escape the total wonder at the Beats and the road. I have been

    myself for the last 2 months and have a long way to go before I get back home, and I am constantly aware that the the way was paved by Kerouac and the rest of the crazy geniuses of his generation. The road is every bit as romantic as Sal Paradise made it out to be, and its glory far out weighs the short comings of Dean as a friend. I mean, the road is a lot like Dean, it takes a lot out of you, but you get addicted to it and obsessed with it and can't let it go, and I don't think there's any other way about it. I am in love with America for the first time. Now that I've seen it, driven across and up and down, around and over America, I find it sublime and incredible. I think that Kerouac and his friends might've been the first to see that. Maybe not. Maybe they are just part of all of American history...they translated the world of Western expansion and canvas covered wagons into the way of the modern world. America is something to dream about. It is worthy every exuberant and formerly offensive "I'm proud" sticker that's plastered on the back of a pick up truck. And Kerouac saw that first hand. So, it seems, that there is a certain tragedy in this book, but that it is less important than the unavoidable glory that you come to associate with the road and freedom after following these guys on their crazy adventure. I think this book should be read by everyone who wants to know about America.

  • Jessica
    Sep 29, 2007

    This is probably the worst book I have ever finished, and I'm forever indebted to the deeply personality-disordered college professor who assigned it, because if it hadn't been for that class I never would've gotten through, and I gotta tell you, this is the book I love to hate.

    I deeply cherish but don't know that I fully agree with Truman Capote's assessment: that _

    _ "is not writing at all -- it's typing."

    Lovely, Turman, but let's be clear: typing by itself is fairly innocuous -- thi

    This is probably the worst book I have ever finished, and I'm forever indebted to the deeply personality-disordered college professor who assigned it, because if it hadn't been for that class I never would've gotten through, and I gotta tell you, this is the book I love to hate.

    I deeply cherish but don't know that I fully agree with Truman Capote's assessment: that _

    _ "is not writing at all -- it's typing."

    Lovely, Turman, but let's be clear: typing by itself is fairly innocuous -- this book is so awful it's actually offensive, and even incredibly damaging.

    I'd be lying if I said there aren't parts of this book that're so bad they're good -- good as in morbidly fascinating, in the manner of advanced-stage syphilis slides from seventh-grade health class. Keroac's ode to the sad-eyed Negro is actually an incredible, incredible example of.... something I'm glad has been typed. For the record. So we can all see it clearly, and KNOW.

    Please don't get me wrong! My disproportionately massive loathing for Jack Kerouac has zero to do with his unenlightened racial views. I mean, it was written in the fifties, and anyway, it's great that he was able to articulate these ideas so honestly. No, the real reason I hate this book so much is that it established a deeply retarded model of European-American male coolness that continues to plague our culture today.

    I could go into a lot more depth on this topic, but it's come to my attention that I've been using my horrible addiction to Bookster to avoid the many obligations and responsiblities of my daily life, to which I should now return. So, in closing: this book SUCKS. This book is UNBELIEVABLY TERRIBLE. And for that very reason, especially considering its serious and detrimental impact on western civilization, I definitely recommend that you read it, if you have not suffered that grave misfortune already.

  • Jacob
    Dec 21, 2007

    I read On The Road when I was 16. When I was 16, I was so depressed. I went to a high school that had a moat around it and a seige mentality. On The Road made me not depressed. In fact ... it made me want to hitchhike, hop freight trains, and more importantly to write. If I were still 16 I would give On The Road 5 stars. I would say, go! Go! Read this book and be mad for life, delirious, exploding outward into the big uncovered road! Consume vanilla ice cream and apple pie. Drink black coffee. F

    I read On The Road when I was 16. When I was 16, I was so depressed. I went to a high school that had a moat around it and a seige mentality. On The Road made me not depressed. In fact ... it made me want to hitchhike, hop freight trains, and more importantly to write. If I were still 16 I would give On The Road 5 stars. I would say, go! Go! Read this book and be mad for life, delirious, exploding outward into the big uncovered road! Consume vanilla ice cream and apple pie. Drink black coffee. Fuck a million times on a small bed and smoke cigarettes all night for a thousand years! Go!

    When I was 21 I re-read On The Road. At this point in my life, I smoked so much pot that I can't really remember the exact effect it had on me, other than the fact that I was very impressed with the glowing red eyes of Chicago and the book in general left a sort of a rumbling phantasmagoric wake in my fuzzy brain. If I were still 21, I would forget to give On The Road a rating. I would say, hey, borrow this book, you'll like it. And then you would borrow it but you would never bring it back or you would read it but trash the copy on accident on a fishing boat, luckily, in this instance, you not only would have read the book but you also would have enjoyed it very much. You would tell me that later.

    When I was 26 I re-read

    again. It was not the same book. I found it naive, verbose in a really bloated and unconvincing way, sappy, and really not that good. I would give it two stars. I would not actually finish reading the book.

  • Ian
    Feb 25, 2011

    OTR has received some negative reviews lately, so I thought I would try to explain my rating.

    This novel deserves to lounge around in a five star hotel rather than languish in a lone star saloon.

    Please forgive my review. It is early morning and I have just woken up with a sore head, an empty bed and a full bladder.

    Let me begin with a confession that dearly wants to become an assertion.

    I probably read this book before most of you were born.

    So there!

    Wouldn'

    OTR has received some negative reviews lately, so I thought I would try to explain my rating.

    This novel deserves to lounge around in a five star hotel rather than languish in a lone star saloon.

    Please forgive my review. It is early morning and I have just woken up with a sore head, an empty bed and a full bladder.

    Let me begin with a confession that dearly wants to become an assertion.

    I probably read this book before most of you were born.

    So there!

    Wouldn't you love to say that!

    If only I had the courage of my convictions.

    Instead, I have only convictions, and they are many and varied.

    However, I am sure that by the end of my (this) sentence, I shall be released.

    I read OTR in my teens, which were spread all over the end of the 60's and the beginning of the 70's.

    My life was dominated by Scouting for Boys.

    I mean the book, not the activity.

    My mantra was "be prepared", although at the time I didn't realise that this actually meant "be prepared for war".

    After reading OTR, my new mantra was "be inebriated".

    Mind you, I had no idea what alcohol tasted like, but it sounded good.

    Gone were two boys in a tent and three men in a boat.

    OTR was about trying to get four beats in a bar, no matter how far you'd travelled that day.

    Forget whether it was just typing rather than writing.

    That was just Truman Capote trying to dot one of Dorothy Parker's eyes.

    This is like focusing on the mince instead of the sausage.

    You have to appreciate what OTR symbolised for people like me.

    It was "On the Road", not "In the House" or "In the Burbs".

    It was about dynamism, not passivity.

    It wasn't about a stream of consciousness, it was about a river of activity.

    It was about "white light, white heat", not "white picket fences".

    OK, your impressions are probably more recent than mine.

    Mine are memories that have been influenced by years of indulgence. (I do maintain that alcohol kills the unhealthy brain cells first, so it is actually purifying your brain.)

    I simply ask that you overlook the mince and savour the sausage.

    I would like to make one last parting metaphor.

    I have misappropriated it from the musician, Dave Graney.

    He talks about "feeling ephemeral, but looking eternal".

    Dave comes from the Church of the Latter Day Hipsters.

    He is way cooler than me, he even looks great in leather pants, in a spivvy kinda way.

    However, I think the point he was making (if not, then the point I am making) is that most of life is ephemeral. It just happens and it's gone forever.

    However, in Dave's case, the way he looks, the way he feels, he turns it into something eternal.

    It's his art, his music, our pleasure, our memories (at least until we die).

    Creativity and style are our last chance attempt to defy ephemerality and mortality and become eternal.

    Yes, all that stuff between the bookends of OTR might be typing, it might be preserving ephemerality that wasn't worthy or deserving.

    However, the point is the attempt to be your own personal version of cool.

    Heck, no way am I cool like the Beats or James Dean or Marlon Brando or Jack Nicholson or Clint Eastwood or Keith Richards or Camille Paglia.

    However, I am trying to live life beyond the ephemeral.

    That's what OTR means to me.

    If it doesn't mean that to you, hey, that's alright. I'm OK, you're OK. It's cool.

    Original posted: March 01, 2011

  • Adam
    Jan 08, 2012

    Although the ideas hold a certain appeal, this book is ultimately just a half-assed justification of some pretty stupid, self-destructive, irresponsible, and juvenile tendencies and attitudes, the end result of which is a validation of being a deadbeat loser, a perpetual child. This validation is dressed up as a celebration of freedom etc.

    As literary art, stylistically, the book is pretty bad. The analogies to bebop or even free jazz are misguided. That improvisation was by talented musicians,

    Although the ideas hold a certain appeal, this book is ultimately just a half-assed justification of some pretty stupid, self-destructive, irresponsible, and juvenile tendencies and attitudes, the end result of which is a validation of being a deadbeat loser, a perpetual child. This validation is dressed up as a celebration of freedom etc.

    As literary art, stylistically, the book is pretty bad. The analogies to bebop or even free jazz are misguided. That improvisation was by talented musicians, or at least musicians who understood music, had a remarkable ear. Kerouac is just rambling and he thinks that qualifies as the literary equivalent of jazz improv. It doesn't. It's just tiresome. DeLillo's prose is an example of prose that more accurately can be described as analogous to bebop.

    I'm not going to hold it against anyone that they like this book. I know that it influenced some important and serious artists, who were many times Kerouac's superiors. I understand its appeal, and even its historical importance. But reading it today, and not being 16 anymore, it really is a bit of a joke.

    Its importance in itself, too, has faded. The Beats live on as myth that surpasses, for the most part, their actual output in both resonance and quality. Moreover, their myth has been adapted, especially in popular music, so well that it has rendered a lot of their actual work trivial, especially the lesser Beats (in terms of talent), eg. Kerouac. Nobody needs to read

    anymore, and all it's going to do is perpetuate some pretty idiotic notions we already have enough of, and lead to a lot of ripoffs of ripoffs of Whitman thinking their poetry is important and crowding bars I don't want to have to see them at.

    Just look at contemporary literature, the voices we have, the stuff that's selling well on the literary market. A lot of that stuff is just workshop fiction that isn't going to last long in particular well-regard, but a lot of it is brilliant stuff, and far more literate, intelligent, and interesting than what this guy had to offer.

    This book's time is up. Aside from youth clinging to a false nostalgia for a nonexistent time and place and crowd, its appeal is pretty much done too.

  • Samadrita
    Sep 30, 2012

    This is the book which has given me anxiety attacks on sleepless nights.

    This is the book which has glared at me from its high pedestal of classical importance in an effort to browbeat me into finally finishing it.

    And this is that book which has shamed me into feigning an air of ignorance every time I browsed any of the countless

    lists.

    Yes Jack Kerouac, you have tormented me for the past 3 years and every day I couldn't summon the strength to open another page o

    This is the book which has given me anxiety attacks on sleepless nights.

    This is the book which has glared at me from its high pedestal of classical importance in an effort to browbeat me into finally finishing it.

    And this is that book which has shamed me into feigning an air of ignorance every time I browsed any of the countless

    lists.

    Yes Jack Kerouac, you have tormented me for the past 3 years and every day I couldn't summon the strength to open another page of 'On the Road' and subject my brain to the all-too-familiar torture of Sal's sleep-inducing, infuriatingly monotonous narration.

    Finally, I conquer you after nearly 3 years of dithering. I am the victorious one in the battle in which you have relentlessly assaulted my finer senses with your crassness and innate insipidity and dared me to plod on. I can finally beat my chest in triumph (ugh pardon the Tarzan-ish metaphor but a 1-star review deserves no better) and announce to the world that I have finished reading

    . Oh what an achievement! And what a monumental waste of my time.

    Dear Beat Generation classic, I can finally state without any fear of being called out on my ignorance that I absolutely hated reading you. Every moment of it.

    Alternatively, this book can be named

    . And even that makes it sound much more interesting and less offensive than it actually is.

    In terms of geographical sweep, the narrative covers nearly the whole of America in the 50s weaving its way in and out of Los Angeles and New York and San Francisco and many other major American cities. Through the eyes of Salvatore 'Sal' Paradise, a professional bum, we are given an extended peek into the lives of a band of merry have-nots, their hapless trysts with women, booze, drugs, homelessness, destitution, jazz as they hitchhike and motor their way through the heart of America.

    Sounds fascinating right? (Ayn Rand will vehemently disagree though).

    But no, it's anything but that. Instead this one just shoves Jack Kerouac's internalized white superiority, sexism and homophobia right in the reader's face in the form of some truly bad writing. This book might as well come with a caption warning any potential reader who isn't White or male or straight. I understand that this was written way before it became politically incorrect to portray women in such a poor light or wistfully contemplate living a "Negro's life" in the antebellum South. But there's an obvious limit to the amount of his vile ruminations I can tolerate.

    Seriously? God-blessed patience?

    Every female character in this one is a vague silhouette or a caricature of a proper human being. Marylou, Camille, Terry, Galatea are all frighteningly one-dimensional - they never come alive for the reader through Sal's myopic vision. They are merely there as inanimate props reduced to the status of languishing in the background and occasionally allowed to be in the limelight when the men begin referring to them as if they were objects.

    Either they are 'whores' for being as sexually liberated as the men are or they are screaming wives who throw their husbands out of the house for being jobless, cheating drunks or they are opportunistic and evil simply because they do not find Sal or Dean or Remy or Ed or any of the men in their lives to be deserving of their trust and respect, which they truly aren't.

    And sometimes, they are only worthy of only a one or two-line description like the following:-

    Look at Sal talking about a woman as if she were a breed of cat he wanted to rescue from the animal shelter.

    Is Marylou a wrench or a machine of some kind?

    And this is not to mention the countless instances of

    and other minor variations of the same strewn throughout the length of the book and some of Sal's thoughts about 'queers' which are equally revolting.

    Maybe I am too much of a non-American with no ties to a real person who sees the Beat era through the lenses of pure nostalgia or maybe I am simply incapable of appreciating the themes of youthful wanderlust and living life with a perverse aimlessness or maybe it's the flat writing and appalling representation of women. Whatever the real reason(s) maybe, I can state with conviction that this is the only American classic which I tried to the best of my abilities to appreciate but failed.

  • Michael Finocchiaro
    Jul 16, 2016

    Kerouac's masterpiece breathes youth and vigor for the duration and created the American bohemian "beat" lifestyle which has been the subject of innumerable subsequent books, songs, and movies. I have read this at least two or three times and always feel a bit breathless and invigorated because of the restlessness of the text and the vibrance of the characters. There was an extraordinary exhibit at the Pompidou Center earlier this year where the original draft in Kerouac's handwriting was laid o

    Kerouac's masterpiece breathes youth and vigor for the duration and created the American bohemian "beat" lifestyle which has been the subject of innumerable subsequent books, songs, and movies. I have read this at least two or three times and always feel a bit breathless and invigorated because of the restlessness of the text and the vibrance of the characters. There was an extraordinary exhibit at the Pompidou Center earlier this year where the original draft in Kerouac's handwriting was laid out end to end in a glass case. It was like seeing the original copy of Don Quixote in the royal palace in Madrid - very moving. In any case, there is no excuse not to read this wonderful high point of mid-20th century American literature.

    Re-read and found both beauty and sadness in this work. The sadness stems from the sexism, racism, and homophobia expressed throughout the book. Sign of the times, I know, but it is still painful to see that these Beat visionaries - for all their open-mindedness towards other religions and sex and drugs - still expressed such backwards views and attitudes sometimes

    As for the beauty, the story of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty crossing the US again and again with a last trip down to Mexico City is epic.

    "I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet who has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was "Wow!" (P. 37)

    I have driven from Florida to San Francisco by myself and back again when I was in college and felt that Kerouac captured the enthusiasm that the memory still evokes in me:

    "I thought, and looked every, as I had looked everywhere in the little world below. And before me was the great raw bulge and bulk of my American continent" (P. 79)

    The descriptions of bebop jazz are absolutely astounding throughout as they listen to Prez, Bird, Dizzy...

    "The pianist was only pounding the keys with spread-eagled fingers, chords, or at intervals when the great tenorman was drawing breath for another blast--Chinese chords, shuddering the piano in every timber, chink, and wire, boing!" (P. 197)

    The writing makes you feel the musics energy pulsating and driving - that is one of my favorite aspects of

    :

    "Holy flowers floating in the air, were all these tired forms in the dawn of Jazz America." (P. 204)

    Other moments are surreal and yet moments I have known many times:

    "Just about that time a strange thing began to haunt me. It was this: I had forgotten something. There was a decision that I was about to make before Dean showed up, and now it was driven clear out of my mind but still hung on the tip of my mind's tongue." (P. 124)

    Or the feeling of mystery:

    "This was a manuscript of the night that we couldn't read." (P. 158) and those that do not share their trip on the road "they stand uncertainly underneath immense skies, and everything about them is drowned." (P. 167)

    I perhaps just ignored it in my previous readings, but this time I was struck by the heroin references. Old Bill was off in the bathroom tying up and yet taking care of his kids (alarming!)

    Perhaps the predominant mood and attitude of the book and Kerouac's view of the period is summarized on Sal's 3rd trip to San Francisco:

    "I realized that I had died and been reborn numberless times but just didn't remember especially because the transitions from life to death and back to life are so ghostly easy, a magical action for naught, like falling asleep and waking up again a million times, the utter casualness and deep ignorance of it. I realized it was only because of the stability of the intrinsic Mind that these ripples of birth and death took place, like the action of wind on a sheet of pure, serene, mirror-like water. I felt a sweet, swinging bliss like a big shot of heroin in the mainline vein; like a gulp of wine late in the afternoon and it makes you shudder; my feet tingled." (P. 173)

    Kerouac captured the spirit of the Beats who would later become the hippies of the 60's (but without the Vietnam War) in both its glory and its squalor. The book is both beautiful and uplifting and desperate and depressing. Regardless of how one reacts to it, it is truly one of the great works of the expression of the American spirit in the post-WWII period.


Top Books is in no way intended to support illegal activity. We uses Search API to find the overview of books over the internet, but we don't host any files. All document files are the property of their respective owners, please respect the publisher and the author for their copyrighted creations. If you find documents that should not be here please report them. Read our DMCA Policies and Disclaimer for more details.