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On the Road Paperback – Deckle Edge, June 1, 1999
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"An authentic work of art . . . the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as 'beat,' and whose principal avatar he is."
--Gilbert Millstein, The New York Times
"On the Road has the kind of drive that blasts through to a large public. . . . What makes the novel really important, what gives it that drive is a genuine new, engaging and exciting prose style. . . . What keeps the book going is the power and beauty of the writing."
--Kenneth Rexroth, San Francisco Chronicle
"One of the finest novels of recent years. . . a highly euphoric and intensely readable story about a group of wandering young hedonists who cross the country in endless search of kicks."
--Leonard Feather, Downbeat
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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A MUST for any fan of Kerouac!
I was mildly frustrated with it the whole time I was reading (listening/reading) because it was rare that it felt like it ever made sense. I realized a little of the way through that's kind of kerouac's point--life doesn't always make sense. Life "on the road" is a magnifying class for the rest of our lives.
In this life on the road, there are so many random experiences, some significant, some less so. I almost feel like I am sal's therapist. he tells me the stories and I am supposed to help him make sense of them.
Kerouac wrote the first draft of this novel in 3 weeks. It's based on his own actual experiences, I'm not sure why he didn't call it a memoir or something more non-fiction-esque. When he originally wrote it he didn't use paragraph breaks and wrote it semi-stream of consciousness. I think this is valuable because it lends to the understanding of the book. Which ends up a bit "ramble-y". That first draft is available as well. Though the common book did go through an editing process.
I recommend this book to those who would like to spend some time travelling, looking for some meaning. There is a lot of meaning to be found. This book shares some of that. It also very honest in sharing some of the hopelessness.
I was a little worried about the idea of long, unbroken scroll. I'm not a marathon reader, in fact quite the contrary, I tend to read in short bursts due to time constraints and eye strain. When I read about the "original scroll" version of On The Road, I was concerned that I would be turned off by the long, unbroken stream of words. That turned out not to be a concern, partly because the story is episodic even if it isn't formatted that way, and partly because it was a fairly easy read that moved in only one direction - there was very little referential content in the book. Given the names and a brief dossier on about 5 characters or so, you could pick this book up and start reading at any random page.
The book features several commentaries that place the book in historical, political and social context. This is actually crucial for the contemporary reader, because the book is like a time-capsule of a bygone era, and I doubt I would have understood it at all without some background. For a first time reader, these essays cheapen the experience somewhat, because you form an opinion of the book before you've read it. However, I suspect that, again for the modern eye, the prejudicial effect more likely works to offset the different culture in which the modern reader lives than it does to form the reader's impression of the book.
This book purports to be the original scroll, and it appealed to me to read the book Kerouac wanted to publish vs. the edited and censored work he ended up conceding to. Again, to my eyes, there was nothing shocking or sensational about the original - the publishers at the time disagreed.
My guess is that reading this edition is about as close as the modern reader can get to experiencing On The Road the way one of Kerouac's contemporaries would have. That is not to say that the experience is close at all - like seeing a technological advance from an earlier age, one wonders what all the fuss is about. For those wanting to read this famous work, and hoping to see it in the light of a bygone culture, this edition seems to serve that purpose well.