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Jack Kerouac: Road Novels 1957-1960: On the Road / The Dharma Bums / The Subterraneans / Tristessa / Lonesome Traveler / Journal Selections (Library of America) Hardcover – September 1, 2007
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"Hard to believe, but this year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of the celebrated Mr. K's Beat bible, "On the Road ", a book that came out of nowhere and knocked everyone on their butts. Kerouac joins The Library of America with this ensemble of four novels ("Road, The Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans", and "Tristessa ") plus "Lonesome Traveler ", a collection of travel essays, and selections from his journals of thumbing and bumming his way across Europe and Mexico. Road's anniversary will lure new readers as well as old ones looking for another fix, and this collection is a wonderful bargain. Happy anniversary, Jack." --"Library Journal, July 15, 2007
About the Author
Jack Kerouac(1922-1969), the central figure of the Beat Generation, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922 and died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969. Among his many novels are On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and Visions of Cody.
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"On the Road" was an instant best seller for Kerouac, yet is it is a strange book in many ways. Like all of Kerouac's novels it is a slightly fictionalized autobiography. It concern's a period in his life when he became infatuated with Neil Cassidy (Dean Moriarty) and the search for something never fully defined. Much like the recent hit comedy, "Seinfeld", nothing really happens in this novel. Yet it is a fascinating read because it is filled with touching, funny, or bizarre events that are interesting perhaps because they lead nowhere. This set the pattern for the whole road novel series. These novels also reflect and describe the anomie felt by Kerouac till the day of his death. Some maintain that the third novel in this series "The Subterraneans" is the best, but this is debatable. It also is claimed that the so-called `beat generation' was spawned by the first novel of the series. This is nonsense.
"On the Road" actually refers to events that happened ten years before its publication in 1947-48. In the aftermath of WWII most veterans were using GI benefits to build stable and prosperous post war lives for themselves A rather smaller and often younger group whose lives were disrupted by the war in one way or another or who simply had trouble fitting into post war society chose to step back from the general prosperity and consumerism that was characteristic of the 1950's and early 1960's. The members of this group could be mostly found in the cities living modestly, working at subsistence level jobs and searching for answers to unknown questions. Rather like the characters in the road series novels. "On the Road" struck such a responsive chord because it was the first novel to really describe this group and give its members a collective name, the `Beat Generation." It also brought on the"beatniks" as they became known in the late fifties a good deal of unwanted media attention. Rather oddly two French writers, Jean Paul Sarte and Albert Camus were catapulted into fame as providing the underlying philosophy for what was called the beat movement. Both men were no doubt puzzled and amused by this.
Every few years this reviewer rereads these road novels and always finds some new thought. If nothing else Kerouac reminds us that an unreflective life is not worth living.
This collection of novels has sent me down an incredibly exciting rabbit hole of Kerouac, and I loathe the day I will complete it. Housing not only "On the Road", but also lesser known and shorter works such as "The Subterraneans" (which I am currently reading through), this book is a marvelous testament to Kerouac's style and his passion for freedom and goodwill.
For any fan of "On the Road" who wants to read more and get to know Kerouac better, this is the perfect book at a perfect price. There is simply so much material in this book that even though it is small, flipping through it I come across a daunting amount of novel that I am eager to attack. To my surprise, now that I have been exposed to Kerouac's other works, I've found that I almost enjoy his other works better than "On the Road" (such as "The Dharma Bums", a wonderful spiritual journey through the forests of the West Coast).
If it was not clear before, I am a huge fan of Kerouac and this book has allowed that love to grow tremendously through being such an easy resource of his work. This will be a treasured book on my bookshelf for many years to come, and I hope to be able to lend it to others who will appreciate its sweeping scope as well.
Most recent customer reviews
Should be clear that the book gives chapters of books