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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Lonesome Traveler (Penguin Modern Classics)
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on 28 May 2017
Great read
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on 23 July 2017
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on 27 March 2017
Great read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERTOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 March 2015
Kerouac's "Lonesome Traveler" (1960)is a collection of eight travel essays, several of which had been published earlier. Kerouac offers insights into the collection in his introduction. He states that he "always considered writing my duty on earth. Also the preachment of universal kindness, which hysterical critics have failed to notice beneath frenetic activity of my true-story novels about the 'beat'generation. -- Am actually not 'beat' but strange solitary crazy Catholic mystic." The essays in "Lonesome Traveler" support Kerouac's comments about his work, which has frequently been misinterpreted or sensationalized. The subject of the collection Kerouac aptly describes as "railroad work, sea work, mysticism, mountain work, lasciviousness, solepsism, self-indulgence, bullfights, drugs, churches, art museums, streets of cities, a mishmosh of life as lived by an independent educated penniless rake going nowhere."

I read much of this book sitting alone in a park on a Saturday afternoon, and it was a fitting companion to my own reflections. There is an intimacy of tone in Kerouac's book that made me feel at times that I was with him and sharing his experiences. Kerouac's spontaneous prose, with its long, strangly, and rhhythmic sentences is an erratic instrument indeed. But when it works, it is moving.

There is a continuity in these essays as Kerouac takes his reader back and forth across the United States, to Mexico, and to North Africa and Europe. Kerouac's vision tends to be highly particularized and specific. He is at his best in describing a lonely room in a San Francisco apartment, a night walk on a pier awaiting a ship, and evening's drinking with a friend and, especially, the sights and places of 'beat' New York City. Many of the scenes in the book show Kerouac sedentary -- in a cheap room or in a fire lookout on Desolation Peak -- while others show a fascination with travel, with ships and the sea and even more with railroads.

The first essay "Piers of the Homeless Night" shows Kerouac wandering on a dock in San Pedro in what becomes a failed effort at securing employment on a ship. "Mexico Fellaheen" describes the trip to Mexico he took immediately thereafter, with scenes in a drug den, a bullfight, and a church. "The Railroad Earth" is a lengthy chapter in which Kerouac details his experience working as a brakeman, and how "railroading gets in yr blood", as a character says at the end. In "Slobs of the Kitchen Sea" Kerouac describes his experience working on a ship -- before he gets fired. "New York Scenes" includes the finest writing in the collection, as Kerouac takes his reader on an intimate tour of the New York City he clearly knows and loves. "Alone on a Mountaintop" is a reflective chapter about the summer Kerouac spent as a watchman on Desolation Peak. The "Big Trip to Europe" includes William Burroughs as a character and describes Kerouac's experiences in Tangiers, with women, in Paris, with art museums, and in England, with hostile police. The final essay, "The Vanishing American Hobo" is a nostalgic tribute to those wanderers, such as Kerouac himself, who once graced the American and the world landscape.

Besides the descriptive writing, there is a sense of mystical pantheism in this book. Kerouac's thought is notoriously difficult to describe. The book is replete with religious metaphor, both Buddhist and Christian. For all the vagaries of his life, Kerouac the writer has something to teach. The book teaches of the need to accept and love one's experiences and to let go --- expanding upon what Kerouac himself says in his introduction. Life is to be loved and cherished, regardless of one's circumstances.

Thus, at the end of "Mexico Fellaheen", following a visit to a church, Kerouac observes: "I bow to all this, kneel at my pew entryway, and go out, taking one last look at St. Antoine de Padue (St. Anthony) Santo Antonio de Padua. -- Everything is perfect on the street again, the world is permeated with roses of happiness all the time, but none of us know it. The happiness consists in realizing that it is all a great strange dream."

Kerouac offers a great deal of reflection in the essay "Alone on a Mountaintop." Sitting in the fire observation tower, he comes to realize that "no matter where I am, whether in a little room full of thought, or in this endless universe of stars and mountains, it's all in my mind. There's no need for solitude. So love life for what it is, and form no preconceptions whatever in your mind." As he leaves his summer in the fire tower, Kerouac states that he "turned and blessed Desolation Peak and the little pagoda on top and thanked them for the shelter and the lesson I'd been taught."

There is much in journeying with Kerouac in this book that can inspire still.

Robin Friedman
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on 17 February 1999
Jack's not for everyone but reading Lonesome Traveler I was teleported right into his shoes-- if you're familiar with Kerouac you know this is his style. His "I" is the one you're with but this "I" is really experiencing every moment-- the minor details of being a train brakeman for instance-- doesn't sound glamorous but it breathes life. It's a bit claustrophobic and frusturasting with his page long sentences but if you forget all the rules of writing and literature you'll surf through a day with him and it's real even if his stories aren't.
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on 25 April 2001
This is a really good book. From working the railroad, to being a fire watcher, to Kerouac's mourning of the lost gentleman hobo culture of the US. This is Jack at his most self indulgent in parts, and most poetic in others. This is one of the lesser known novels but dosn't deserve to be. Pick this one up.
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on 10 April 2014
Lonesome Traveler is a fascinating collection of short stories from the typewriter of beat visionary Jack Kerouac, who’s well-known for his spontaneous prose and his unique writing style. Lonesome Traveler contains more of the same, only this time it’s drawn mostly from his notebooks and diaries.

In fact, this is a rare example of a book in which he uses the real names of his associates, rather than their pseudonyms – perhaps it’s because he focuses on his travels, and there’s little here that could incriminate them in a court of law. Nevertheless, it’s very much worth a read.

You’ll find out about his trips on ships, his strolls through New York, a visit to England and even the time he spent fire-watching on Desolation Peak in Washington State. Each book that he released just got better and better.
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on 18 September 1997
Though it has been a while since I have read this book, I found it distressing that there were no reviews of it in this area.
I know very many of you love Kerouac's works and styles, so I hope that this book will be given it's due attention. Its contents are five short stories or sketches that move around the central theme of travel. A sketch about the "railroad earth" written in spontaneous style is quite riveting, and here you will have a chance to read what seems to be an early sketch of the fire tower section from "Dharma Bums".
I hope these suggestions will have you picking up a copy of this wonderful book.
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on 22 September 2000
I read "Lonesome Traveler" straight after reading "On The Road". Of course it would be foolish to expect every book to be of equal merit but, I must tell you, this book isn't as good as it's famous brother. I felt some parts were extremely cumbersome- self-indulgent even. However, Kerouac is undoubtedly a talented writer, so many of the tales are superb. I especially recommend the mountain-top chapter which seems to tie in with another quality Kerouac work "Dharma Bums". In conclusion then, if you didn't enjoy "On the Road", don't read this. If you did however, and are willing to put up with a little trying reading, this book may just be your cup of tea.
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on 9 April 2000
This book has been dismissed by many as overly sentimental and trie, but for me it still has power. Kerouac's description of Mexico in particular is very evocative, as is his account of being a firespotter in the USA. Warm and moving, it's just the right size to fit in my rucksack!
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