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From Library Journal
- Jeanne P. Leader, Western Nebraska Community Coll. Lib., Scottsbluff
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- Publication Date : August 4, 2020
- File Size : 1077 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Print Length : 325 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage : Unlimited
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Publisher : Jack Kerouac/Editora Caramelo (August 4, 2020)
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Language: : English
- ASIN : B08FBMXM4B
- Best Sellers Rank: #22,484 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Like so many boys who grow up in the Midwest, I revered my father. My father was a Republican, who loved Reagan and taxes and the military and said God Made America. And like so many boys, I wanted to please my father. Truth be told there was once a time in my life where I too would talk about taxes and abortion and guns and our revered troops and our God Given Right.
And then, I turned 18 and went to college. And just like all the other Midwestern white boys who find themselves in school, alone and without the need to please their patriarch, I fell in love with being Progressive. I'd talk about ignorant, closed minded country bumpkins and their pickup trucks. I'd say Bush needed to be put on trial for war crimes and that taxes needed raised and it's a woman's body so it's her choice. I came to hate my father, and I came to know that I knew better than him in his closed mind in the Midwest. That the future didn't look like him. I never did drugs, I didn't even drink alcohol until I was a few months over 21, and I never traveled to Berlin or Chile or Thailand, and I may have never owned the Birkenstocks or the old, travel-worn bag. But I knew from my reading and my friends and my freedom that the old man was just plain wrong. I knew this.
And a large reason I knew it was because of this book. On The Road has been said to be to hippies what the Bible is to Christians. Bob Dylan read this book and then started Folk Rock, it's said. The Beat Generation may have came before the Baby Boomers, but when Baby Boomers went to the bookstores just as soon as they were old enough they bought On The Road, and Howl and Naked Lunch. The idea of other ways to live, other ways to be other than a company man sending troops all over the world was supposed to have started with the Beats. It was Kerouac and Ginsburg and Burrows and a host of others that turned the Beatles from suit wearing British boys into long haired, bearded, sunglasses wearing hippies who fought the war and the squares and expanded their mind. And the hippies just wanted peace and free love and an end to racism and sexism, right? It was Nixon who killed real freedom, the freedom our long haired brethren from Berkeley and Frisco fought for. That was something I knew.
And I went on believing this, really knowing this, for a long time. That somewhere in our past was a truth that was squelched by oppressive forces like Nixon and Reagan and even Clinton and then Bush. The names of other old patriarchs who were stopping the future from coming. That all we needed was the future and the future promised to us years before by the long lost Counter-Culture of the 1960s.
I knew all this, right up until I was watching CNN about three weeks ago. I was on my Amazon Fire TV, on the CNN App, watching this show produced by Tom Hanks called "The 60s." It was this little mini-series, that has been replicated for every decade since, and it talked about Rock and Roll and Vietnam and Jack and Bobby and 1968. But it also talked about the hippies, and toward the end of that hour of television something happened that I started me un-knowing what I had known. Because it turns out that Jack Kerouac, in 1968, went on William F. Buckley's TV show and completely and unequivocally dis-owned the hippies.
I was floored. Here was the hero whose foundation held up the Counter-Culture's house, on the show of an old-school white guy Republican ideologue, saying he wanted nothing to do with the hippies. Just what in the heck?
I, now a 30 year old Midwesterner with the Internet, checked out Wikipedia. Turns out old Jack Kerouac was a lifelong Catholic (yes, even when writing the Dharma Bums), who painted portraits of the Pope and carried a rosary. He played football in High School and went to college on a football scholarship. This square was the guy who people flocked to to change the world? This dude wearing jeans and a t-shirt and drinking a tall can of Budweiser? That article on Wikipedia was an eye-opener. Jack was also schizophrenic.
Now, I am not going to ruin this book for you. I want to, I really do. But I bought the book and read it in maybe a week or so. Even now, a few hours after I put it down, I am floored and still collecting my thoughts. Kerouac is not who I thought he was. The entirety of our great, glorious past and our experiment in free love and peace isn't built on a lie, I've checked. There isn't another On The Road written by another Jack Kerouac that I have accidentally purchased. What it seems to be based on is the most misogynist and most disdainful and most self-absorbed and outright delusional reading of a book that had occurred in the entire Baby Boomer generation. Kerouac and his friends, all subjects of this book written in with their names changed, were deluded about their place in life, disdained the order that let them treat so many people so badly, and what they did to the women in their lives makes Don Draper and Roger Sterling look like Gloria Steinem's hard nosed instructors. These men were monsters who used people like objects and had the utter gall to appropriate the name of the Beat, originally a term used to describe black people "beaten to their socks," and apply it to their own over-privileged selves. Sal and Dean actually got up in the morning and thought that THEY were "beat."
I encourage everyone to read this awful tome to awful men. I hope that you read it when you are 30 like me, or maybe just when you are mature enough to understand that what is happening here isn't a great adventure but a total abdication. I wish I had actually read this book in college. My father and I argued a lot when I was in school, when I knew he was so wrong and I was so knowing. The truth about Jack Kerouac and his friends is that even their best qualities fail to exceed my father's worst. For all his many faults, he has never, ever treated any human on this earth the way Sal and Dean treated every single person that had the misfortune to be on the road to Sal and Dean's kicks.
Don't get me wrong, this book hasn't changed my political stripe. I'm not voting for Trump two years ago or two years from now. But Holy God, to think the young people who were going to "change the world" in my father's youth did so after reading this. It makes sense to me now, sitting here, why the #MeToo movement has ousted so many lefty men in Hollywood and the Senate, and even a lefty woman or two. I think, whether they read this book or not, they actually know what I knew until just earlier today.
I'm sorry, dad.
After getting to page 180 (of 250), I returned this book to where it came from - the trash, but unfortunately, not after I had carried it on a 55 mile hike on Isle Royale as my camp book (I had chosen it after a quick google of great books of the 20th century). I wish I had saved myself the 1 pound of weight. Awful.
If you are not digging it after the first 20 pages...cut sling load and put it down...it doesn't change or get any better.
While ostensibly the story of Sal Paradise’s adventures across North America, the real focus of the book is on the other central character Dean Moriarty. Sal is fascinated, almost obsessively, with Dean as soon as he meets him. To those who know him only casually, Dean seems like a conman. He works and fudges his way towards enough money to sustain drinking, womanizing and, above all, traveling. All the while he leaves behind a string of heartbroken women and fatherless children across the US. And yet this conman fascinates the more responsible Sal so much that he spends several years of his life following him around trying to understand how Dean seems to know the secret of life.
And, according to the author, Dean really does know the secret, or better put, lack thereof. Dean simply lives life in the moment. He isn’t moral and he isn’t immoral. He is more amoral-he simply doesn’t think in those categories. He isn’t religious but he has a strange religious sense about him. More Eastern than Western he sees the life of work, marriage and responsibility as mostly an illusion to be fled from.
This attitude towards life, this simply to be fully alive every second, can’t be put into so many words. That’s why Dean is forever talking about someone getting IT. IT is simply this sense of living at its utmost that seems like such a banal insight unless expressed as lived in a person like Dean Moriarty.
And this understanding of life comes with an understandable sadness since human life is always finite. Hence the dichotomy between Dean fully feeling IT and his often expressed melancholy.
To be honest, I don’t share Kerouac’s enamor with Dean Moriarty. But then I’m married, work in an office and have a mortgage to meet. Perhaps Kerouac wouldn’t have been so enamored with my choices.
Regardless, the book is a deserved classic for espousing a way of life that people around the world aspire to attain. One can condemn, belittle or otherwise reject this life but it rarely has been better sold. A must read for all who want to understand the type of life many modern people try to imitate.
Top reviews from other countries
I understand that this kind of poetic writing is not for all, some people may like it and some may not, but i think it is worth it to give it a chance.
I personally read it 3 times translated in my native language and i bought it now in english too, so i can finally enjoy it in its original form!
Although it took me some time to get through the book, it isn't a page turner that you can't put down, there are passages that evoke a time and place that the film The Last Picture Show brings to the world of cinematography. When Jack talks (raves) about a car that his friend has bought you just have to Google it to see what it looks like.
The pages have some lovely character descriptions and the tales he tells of post war America highlight things that I wasn't aware of and made interesting reading. Your mind imagines the places they stop and the people they meet. Jack Kerouac has a style all of his own....
It is easy to see why this is classed as a Modern Classic.
It's impossible to like such selfish, amoral people, descending like locusts across America, free-loading off and laying waste the lives of their struggling, impoverished friends, relations and lovers as well as strangers and figures of authority, acquiring no insight or philosophy beyond a hunger for more in a search for "IT" that reminded me of similar futile journeys into self in the sixties.
It's hard to be interested in the repetitious succession of their exploits, described and thrown into the slipstream of whatever breakneck crossing of the continent we are now on. (Essential by the way to read this with an atlas at hand.)
What seriously impressed me was the writing! Yes, Kerouac bashed a draft out on a continuous roll of paper in 3 weeks, but this was NOT a first draft. Yes, he undertook these mad road-trips, but he spent most of his life at home with his mother writing and fretting about writing. In her introduction, Ann Charters (who knew and worked with Kerouac) tells in some detail how he had been struggling, rewriting, researching other writers, debating with other writers for years to find the emotionally-charged way of catching the thing about 'On the Road' that he wanted. The 3-week draft was an experiment in style to try to catch this. Still plagued by doubt he produced further drafts after this one. The critic, Cowley, who championed him and finally got the book published suggested revisions that he adopted to make it more readable. Additional changes were made without Kerouac's say-so by an in-house editor. What survives all the angst, and rewriting, and furious typing, and chopping, and cutting, and second thoughts is the emotionally-charged style he was after, and it is seriously impressive. The sense of the USA in all its vastness and variety is a first for this reader. Some of the descriptions of place, people and feeling are almost literally breathtaking.
By the end I was sad, not disappointed. For the characters, for Kerouac (who died in his 40s from an abdominal haemorrhage brought on by alcohol), and for America, both then and since. Ann Charters says Kerouac envisioned "On the Road" as a quest novel like "Don Quixote" or "The Pilgrim's Progress". And yes, there is more awareness of futility here than meets the eye. The narrator Sal shows often that he knows that he and Dean Moriarty are destroying lives, getting nowhere, ruining their health, wasting their youth, even as he rushes headlong to do more of the same, hoping the American dream will be around the next corner... "the point being that we know what IT is and we know TIME and we know that everything is really FINE."
It describes his various car journeys across America in the late 1940s with his friends. It is considered the defining work of the beat generation.
You need to know who some of the characters are that appear in it, they represent real people but with their names changed, like Carlo Marx who in real life is Allan Ginsberg the poet and Sal Paradise who is Jack Kerouac himself. The other main character is Dean Moriarty who in real life was Neal Cassady the writer.
I have to say it is not a relaxed read, it goes at 120 miles an hour from cover to cover so you have to pay attention otherwise you lose the plot, it is quite hard work. As a read it does not flow easily.
It was typed in three weeks from notebooks and on 120 foot of tracing paper with no margins or paragraph breaks, so is bound to be a bit frenetic.
Truman Capote's assessment was that On the road "is not writing at all -- it's typing."
He is right, it is not good writing.
Despite that it is considered a classic of its kind, give it a go, what is a few quid in the scheme of things.