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On the Road (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 24 Feb 2000
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On The Road, the most famous of Jack Kerouac's works, is not only the soul of the Beat movement and literature, but one of the most important novels of the century. Like nearly all of Kerouac's writing, On The Road is thinly fictionalised autobiography, filled with a cast made of Kerouac's real life friends, lovers and fellow travellers. Narrated by Sal Paradise, one of Kerouac's alter-egos, this cross-country bohemian odyssey not only influenced writing in the years since its 1957 publication but penetrated into the deepest levels of American thought and culture. --Acton Lane
"Life is great, and few can put the zest and wonder and sadness and humor of it on paper more interestingly than Kerouac." --San Francisco Chronicle Life is great, and few can put the zest and wonder and sadness and humor of it on paper more interestingly than Kerouac. San Francisco Chronicle" ? A dazzling piece of writing for all of its rough edges, stripped of affectations that in the novel can sometimes verge on bathos . . . It seems much more immediate and contemporary.? ?Luc Sante, " New York Times Book Review" A dazzling piece of writing for all of its rough edges, stripped of affectations that in the novel can sometimes verge on bathos . . . It seems much more immediate and contemporary. Luc Sante, " New York Times Book Review" a A dazzling piece of writing for all of its rough edges, stripped of affectations that in the novel can sometimes verge on bathos . . . It seems much more immediate and contemporary.a aLuc Sante," New York Times Book Review"See all Product description
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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.
Now that I am creakingly ancient, I do not have the same wanderlust I once had- ok there's an amazing waterfall in Argentina that my dentist is currently visiting with his wife. But I don't feel the urge to go halfway around the world to see it 'before I pop my clogs'. I think the message of the sometimes breathless and funny prose is that any journey is interior. We go out to get the data and return to process it and remodel the world (if we're the least bit reflective) in the light of experience.
So maybe that is the real underlying message- you can leave for somewhere else but you'll always take your baggage with you... so you'd better sort your baggage out...... I'd better keep sorting my own baggage out! It's a good read.