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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My favourite beat angel, 20 Nov 2001
This review is from: The Town and the City (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
The Town And The City tracks the lives of the Martin family (5 sons and 3 daughters) growing up, living loving and discovering themselves, the world and others in the small town of Galloway in Massachusetts in the early 1900's. From the football star, to the lonely scholar, to the forever wandering heartbreaker of a truck driver, Kerouac deals with each of the siblings separately, describing their very different lives and in doing so, gives us the readers, a glimpse into each of their souls.
The book can be read as a largely autobiographical account of Kerouac's life, with each of the Martin sons representing alternative parts of himself, his feelings, thoughts and personality. Alternatively, the reader can lose themselves in the lives of the Martin family without concerning themselves with the real or the elaborated.
Kerouac reaches the reader with soaring, descriptive writing, which transform the mundane and everyday into feelings and emotions which describe the things you've always thought and felt but could never articulate into words...
"He was sick now with a crying lonesomeness, he somehow knew that all moments were farewell, all life was goodbye."
Kerouac himself describes the book as, "The sum of myself as far as the written word can go." The great American novel? Possibly, but this book is definately an essential for all Kerouac fans, people who have ever wondered what somebody else was thinking and all those who have raged on into the lonely night looking for an 'angelheaded hipster' to give them meaning.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kerouac's Best, 17 Mar 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Town and the City (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Oddly enough, and against poplular criticism, I feel that by far this is Kerouac's best book. Rather than the 'travelogues' of his later work (which I don't mean to denigrate--they are spectacular), this is a thought out, true 'novel'. I've felt ever since I read it years ago that if he would have continued in this vein he'd be right up there with Hemingway et al, instead of a genre writer. Not that he was a mere 'genre writer' mind you. Without giving away any plot, the scene with his father at the end is the only thing I have ever in my life read that moved me to tears. There are hints of his later style as the book moves on, but the pure emotion, the feeling...he never equaled this book, and I think that affected the rest of his work. A true masterpiece; a couple of more like this and he'd have won a Nobel Prize. Just an amazing book.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Before Beat, 18 Aug 2004
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This review is from: The Town and the City (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Before there ever was the Beat generation there was Jack trying to write. This is a book which proves to those who claim that Kerouac couldn't write properly that he was a capable writer. His prose is excellent and the characterisations lack the weirdness of his later novels.
The novel is based on small town America, and chronicles the life of what to Jack would have been an average American family, in the years upto and during the second world war. It is also full of personal observations of Jack's life, for those who want to know more about the writer. To us in the UK it is more like a history lesson, and a chance to glimpse what living in America used to be like before McDonalds strode across the world.
If you like stories that deal with relationships of you will like it, I promise you.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and rewarding reading., 18 Oct 2010
By 
Paul Harris (Llantrisant, Wales) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Town and the City (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Despite reading this many years ago, this novel has stood out in my mind as one of Kerouac's best. It's almost certainly his most underated as the author himself later disowned the lyrical Wolfean narrative style in which it was written. In many ways it is a far more pleasing read than his better known 'spontaneous prose' style of On The Road and his other later works. This story has a real charm and beauty of its own, and brings to life the 1920s & 1930s of Kerouac's childhood in New England.

Full of colour and sounds, rivers, woods, abandoned lots, mysterious back-alleys, steamy lunch counters, brooding brick factories, and the ever-present looming churches and cemeteries... This novel has a real feeling of depth of place and a true sense of the working class characters of depression era America which fill it. As a debut novel I think it clearly shows the literary class which Kerouac undoubtedly had, though possibly failed to broaden with some of his more disjointed later work. A rewarding read.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent book, 1 May 2010
having read 'on the road' and 'dharma bums' many times i've decided it's time to buy some of the less well known kerouac books second hand through the market place. i'm certainly pleased i got this one as it's excellent and i can imagine myself reading it again and again. highly recommended.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece, 2 Jan 2008
By 
Thomas N. Orchard (Manchester) - See all my reviews
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I first read On the Road while a student in 1982 and liked it immensely. I ignored The Town and the City assuming that it would be a crummy Pre-Beat first novel by Kerouac. Big mistake! It is a wonderful book in the Tom Wolfe/Jack London tradition that Kerouac so loved. (Kerouac was originally John not Jack.) It tells the story of the Martin family in a sprawling but sensical way. I prefer parts 2 and 3 where Francis Martin meets strange men like Engels in the Galloway library. The prose at this point is truly magnificent - it is all rain and evocative descriptions. A wonderful book I recommend it to readers of all ages.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Jack, 7 Nov 1997
By A Customer
This book is a poingnant tale of the trials of life, as seen through the eyes of a boy, who watches his family changing and aging, even as he does the same.
Peter Martin's reactions to everyday life are heartwrenchingly accurate. We watch his family scatter throughout the earth with the onset of WWII, and see first-hand the devastating repercussions of the war on this all-too-real household.
The Town and the City was Kerouac's first novel, and what a work of literature to call your first! He was compared numerous times to Thomas Wolfe upon the first publishing, and it's no wonder. Filled with lush description and prose, this book will take your breath away and break your heart. For those who are skeptical of Kerouac's sometimes chaotic "spontaneous prose" style, fear not. While The Town and the City echoes the spontaneity of Kerouac's future works, it also contains a solid, beautiful sructure to relish and savor. Intricate layers of life intertwined so delicately they will make you cry, I promise you it will be highlighted, tattered and dogeared in a very short time.
If you're looking for a book you can keep at your bedside that contains any kind of pre-sleep passage you could long for (from jubilant to forlorn, and everything in between), this is it. The Town and the City is the book you feel inside you everyday, playing out as the very essence of living itself, and the most beautiful thing of all is that it's already been written for you to enjoy again and again.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cracking debut!, 10 Mar 2011
By 
Sebastian Palmer "sebuteo" (Cambridge, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Town and the City (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Kerouac, the man and the author, is often accused of many things by detractors, ranging from a poor/sloppy writing style, to emotional immaturity, not being a 'proper' authority on Buddhism, helping usher in the licentiousness and debauchery of the 60's, and so on. I imagine most of these nay-sayers only know of his more famous 'beat' writings. Personally I'd wager that - assuming prejudices can genuinely be overcome - they might do well to read this.

For a first novel it's very impressive: it's a big volume, and, by comparison with some of his later writings, pretty conventional in writing terms. But, to those who know and love Kerouac, it has some of the key qualities that make the best of all his varied writings worth reading.

One key feature that is mentioned in the excellent DVD What Happened To Kerouac? is that - like almost all Kerouac's work - the view is one backwards in time-focus. Ultimately Kerouac is a nostalgia man, and his nostalgia mostly stems from watching the '40s disappear. So, as someone observes in the aforementioned DVD, Kerouac's more a writer of the '40s than the '50s, and almost all his writing has an elegaic quality, as if he's mourning the passing of a world he loves, but knows he's losing.

In the end it's probably true that this retrospective focus and deep-blue melancholy helped unravel his life and mind, so that apathy and booze saw him descend into a sad oblivion, and then death. But what this book captures magnificently, is the youthful zest and energy of his begininngs, and the wonderfully poetic eye for detail he has, writing beautiful passionately detailed passages on family, food, neighbourhoods, buildings, and people, that, to my mind, make some of the more usually lionized writers of such domestic details (who will, for the time being, remain unnamed!) seem positively anaemic.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kerouac at his best, 24 April 2009
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This review is from: The Town and the City (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Jack kerouac would have made a great film director if he ever had the inclination. The first half dozen pages of the book read like a tracking shot at the beginning of a movie - sweeping across the small town panorama like the lens of a camera, slowly moving into a close up view of the Martin family and the minutiae of their relationships and lives and stuggles in 1940's America. The prose as we have come to expect from Kerouac is at times breathless with the urgency of youth and at others more introspective and philosophical. The characters are finely crafted and realistic given the writers excellent ear for dialogue and no nonense descriptive style, driving the story at a satisfying pace. The book is at once amusing, profound, soulful, and elegiac - the death of Kerouac's own father inspired the scene where family patriarch George Martin dies and is particular raw and heart rending. He set out with the specific intention of creating a great American novel in the style of writer Thomas Woolf who he admired greatly - and sometimes labours under the weight of such expectations. Nevertheless - Kerouac has crafted an engaging and poignant story that deserves its status as a modern classic.
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8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars for what it is, 15 Mar 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Town and the City (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Ah Jack, young Jack. If only you'd held to the innocence of Town and ignored the City... but that wasn't possible, was it Jack? The town, for all its romance and squalor, just CAN'T BE, CAN NEVER BE as alive as the city. The town, for one thing, has no night. Mornings, yes, but no night.
Since you've already read On The Road, read this next. Understand that Jack was always just trying to be Good. And alive. And he had a hell of a time being both.
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The Town and the City (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Town and the City (Penguin Modern Classics) by Jack Kerouac (Paperback - 3 Feb 2000)
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