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On the Road Paperback – Deckle Edge, June 1, 1999
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On the Road is truly an influential work. Overnight, it propelled Jack Kerouac from unknown status to "king of the beats" and then helped awaken a nation of youth who shook America out of the 1950s and ushered in the excitement of the 1960s. The novel continues to inspire and has picked up a new generation of followers in the 1980s and 1990s. On the Road follows Sal Paradise as he traverses the American continent in search of new people, ideas, and adventures. But it's the way Sal and his friends--primarily Dean Moriarty--look at the world with a mixture of sad-eyed naivete and wild-eyed abandon that causes the rumbling in the soul of so many who read it. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Fans of Kerouac get the whole beautiful, groovy deal with this new recording of the radically hip novel that many consider the heart of the Beat movement. Poetic, open and raw, Kerouac's prose lays out a cross-country adventure as experienced by Sal Paradise, an autobiographical character. A writer holed up in a room at his aunt's house, Paradise gets inspired by Dean Moriarty (a character based on Kerouac's friend Neal Cassady) to hit the road and see America. From the moment he gets on the seven train out of New York City, he takes the reader through the highs and lows of hitchhiking, bonding with fellow explorers and opting for beer before food. First published in 1957, Kerouac's perennially hot story continues to express the restless energy and desire for freedom that makes people rush out to see the world. The tale is only improved by Dillon's well-paced, articulate reading as he voices the flow of images and graveled reality of Paradise's search for the edge.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Kerouac's keen travel observations provide the present-day reader with insights into what the country was like two or three generations ago and some of the ways it differs from America today. America seemed more free and wide-open in these pages, but the book is a reminder of how the encroachments of centralization and bureaucracy are on ongoing process--one of the characters in "On the Road" laments how much less free the country was at the book's mid-century vantage point than it was in the years before World War I.
Jazz was still wildly popular in America in the 1940s, and Kerouac references it constantly in these pages. Less savory aspects of the Beat culture included indiscriminate sexual activity, drug use, and alcohol abuse, and the repetitive nature of the stories describing these activities suggests that the characters were searching for something and just not finding it. Not all of the tales in the book were seedy, though, with many just plain fun travel stories.
In spots the repetitiveness did get tiresome, as did some of the eye-rolling driving techniques that suggested that the characters were just overgrown delinquents, but readers who have always been curious about the book and want to examine the Beat culture will find much of interest in "On the Road."
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.
I thought this book was pointless when I read it in college, and I have just finished reading it again. It has not improved. On The Road has no plot, banal dialogue, and unpleasant characters. As writing, its claim to fame is breathless description, like “all in darkness now as we fumed and screamed in our mountain nook, mad drunken Americans in the mighty land.” The language and urgency of this self-important narration is supposed to convince you that something spiritual is happening.
I know it’s anachronistic, but I also have to say that the women in the book are completely objectified. Kerouac describes them mainly by physical characteristics, like size, hair color, and sex appeal. All his Negroes are jazz musicians, and he is condescending toward gays. I would like to believe that this obnoxious narrator is an invention, and not really the author.
Other reviewers have listed better books, and I always appreciate that. Another first person ramble written around the same time is Bellow’s Adventures of Augie March. Read that instead.