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On the Road (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 31, 2002
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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.
Ann Charters is a Professor of American Literature at the University of Connecticut. She is the editor of The Portable Sixties Reader, The Portable Jack Kerouac, two volumes of Jack Kerouac's Selected Letters, and Beat Down to Your Soul. She teaches at the University of Connecticut.
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A MUST for any fan of Kerouac!
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."