On the Road

On the Road

4.2 202
by Jack Kerouac

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Essential Edition handsomely packaged with french flaps, rough fronts, high-quality paper, and a distinctive cover look

On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac's years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, "a sideburned hero of the snowy West." As "Sal Paradise" and "Dean Moriarty," the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge

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Essential Edition handsomely packaged with french flaps, rough fronts, high-quality paper, and a distinctive cover look

On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac's years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, "a sideburned hero of the snowy West." As "Sal Paradise" and "Dean Moriarty," the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience. Kerouac's love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz combine to make On the Road an inspirational work of lasting importance.

Kerouac's classic novel of freedom and longing defined what it meant to be "Beat" and has inspired every generation since its initial publication more than forty years ago.

Editorial Reviews

Lancaster Sunday News
Kerouac wrote with a sense of language as jazz, and Dillon can read like manic ragtime or weary blues.
The recording is great. Dillon's ability with voice impersonations, however, drives his performance to the level of genius.
New York Times
The most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as 'beat.'.
Library Journal
Though Kerouac's masterpiece is not out of print and likely never will be (it still enjoys more than 60,000 sales annually), Viking is releasing a quality hardcover edition to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its original publication. Undoubtedly one of the most influential and important novels of the 20th century, this is the book that launched the Beat Generation and remains the bible of that literary movement. On the Road's publication in 1957 was a wake-up call to the American public that not all its youth were modeled after characters on Ozzie and Harriet: it portrayed Ivy League-educated white kids who smoked dope, hitchhiked, and frequented black jazz joints and Mexican whorehouses. It was the harbinger of the radical changes that would soon sweep society in the 1960s. In addition to the full text, this version includes the New York Times's original book review. A pillar of American literature.
A reprint of the novel first published (by Viking) in 1957. And still printed on acidic paper--it deserves better. New, long introduction by Ann Charters. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
David Dempsey
The incessant and frenetic moving around is the chief dynamic of On the Road, partly because this is one of the symptoms of "beatness" but partly, too, because the hot pursuit of pleasure enables Mr. Kerouac to serve up the great, raw slices of America that give his book a descriptive excitement unmatched since the days of Thomas Wolfe. As a portrait of a disjointed segment of a society acting out of its own neurotic necessity, On the Road is a stunning achievement. But it is a road, as far as the characters are concerned, that leads nowhere - and which the novelist himself can't afford to travel more than once.
From the Publisher
“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

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Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.00(d)

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part one

I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road. Before that I’d often dreamed of going West to see the country, always vaguely planning and never taking off. Dean is the perfect guy for the road because he actually was born on the road, when his parents were passing through Salt Lake City in 1926, in a jalopy, on their way to Los Angeles. First reports of him came to me through Chad King, who’d shown me a few letters from him written in a New Mexico reform school. I was tremendously interested in the letters because they so naively and sweetly asked Chad to teach him all about Nietzsche and all the wonderful intellectual things that Chad knew. At one point Carlo and I talked about the letters and wondered if we would ever meet the strange Dean Moriarty. This is all far back, when Dean was not the way he is today, when he was a young jailkid shrouded in mystery. Then news came that Dean was out of reform school and was coming to New York for the first time; also there was talk that he had just married a girl called Marylou.
One day I was hanging around the campus and Chad and Tim Gray told me Dean was staying in a cold-water pad in East Harlem, the Spanish Harlem. Dean had arrived the night before, the first time in New York, with his beautiful little sharp chick Marylou; they got off the Greyhound bus at 50th Street and cut around the corner looking for a place to eat and went right in Hector’s, and since then Hector’s cafeteria has always been a big symbol of New York for Dean. They spent money on beautiful big glazed cakes and creampuffs.
All this time Dean was telling Marylou things like this: “Now, darling, here we are in New York and although I haven’t quite told you everything that I was thinking about when we crossed Missouri and especially at the point when we passed the Boon ville reformatory which reminded me of my jail problem, it is absolutely necessary now to postpone all those leftover things concerning our personal lovethings and at once begin thinking of specific worklife plans . . .” and so on in the way that he had in those early days.
I went to the cold-water flat with the boys, and Dean came to the door in his shorts. Marylou was jumping off the couch; Dean had dispatched the occupant of the apartment to the kitchen, probably to make coffee, while he proceeded with his love-problems, for to him sex was the one and only holy and important thing in life, although he had to sweat and curse to make a living and so on. You saw that in the way he stood bobbing his head, always looking down, nodding, like a young boxer to instructions, to make you think he was listening to every word, throwing in a thousand “Yeses” and “That’s rights.” My first impression of Dean was of a young Gene Autry—trim, thin-hipped, blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent—a sideburned hero of the snowy West. In fact he’d just been working on a ranch, Ed Wall’s in Colorado, before marrying Marylou and coming East. Marylou was a pretty blonde with immense ringlets of hair like a sea of golden tresses; she sat there on the edge of the couch with her hands hanging in her lap and her smoky blue country eyes fixed in a wide stare because she was in an evil gray New York pad that she’d heard about back West, and waiting like a longbodied emaciated Modigliani surrealist woman in a serious room. But, outside of being a sweet little girl, she was awfully dumb and capable of doing horrible things. That night we all drank beer and pulled wrists and talked till dawn, and in the morning, while we sat around dumbly smoking butts from ashtrays in the gray light of a gloomy day, Dean got up nervously, paced around, thinking, and decided the thing to do was to have Marylou make breakfast and sweep the floor. “In other words we’ve got to get on the ball, darling, what I’m saying, otherwise it’ll be fluctuating and lack of true knowledge or crystallization of our plans.” Then I went away.
During the following week he confided in Chad King that he absolutely had to learn how to write from him; Chad said I was a writer and he should come to me for advice. Meanwhile Dean had gotten a job in a parking lot, had a fight with Marylou in their Hoboken apartment—God knows why they went there—and she was so mad and so down deep vindictive that she reported to the police some false trumped-up hysterical crazy charge, and Dean had to lam from Hoboken. So he had no place to live. He came right out to Paterson, New Jersey, where I was living with my aunt, and one night while I was studying there was a knock on the door, and there was Dean, bowing, shuffling obsequiously in the dark of the hall, and saying, “Hel-lo, you remember me—Dean Moriarty? I’ve come to ask you to show me how to write.”
“And where’s Marylou?” I asked, and Dean said she’d apparently whored a few dollars together and gone back to Denver—“the whore!” So we went out to have a few beers because we couldn’t talk like we wanted to talk in front of my aunt, who sat in the living room reading her paper. She took one look at Dean and decided that he was a madman.
In the bar I told Dean, “Hell, man, I know very well you didn’t come to me only to want to become a writer, and after all what do I really know about it except you’ve got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict.” And he said, “Yes, of course, I know exactly what you mean and in fact all those problems have occurred to me, but the thing that I want is the realization of those factors that should one depend on Schopenhauer’s dichotomy for any inwardly realized . . .” and so on in that way, things I understood not a bit and he himself didn’t. In those days he really didn’t know what he was talking about; that is to say, he was a young jailkid all hung-up on the wonderful possibilities of becoming a real intellectual, and he liked to talk in the tone and using the words, but in a jumbled way, that he had heard from “real intellectuals” —although, mind you, he wasn’t so naive as that in all other things, and it took, him just a few months with Carlo Marx to become completely in there with all the terms and jargon. Nonetheless we understood each other on other levels of madness, and I agreed that he could stay at my house till he found a job and furthermore we agreed to go out West sometime. That was the winter of 1947.
One night when Dean ate supper at my house—he already had, the parking-lot job in New York—he leaned over my shoulder as I typed rapidly away and said, “Come on man, those girls won’t wait, make it fast.”
I said, “Hold on just a minute, I’ll be right with you soon as I finish this chapter,” and it was one of the best chapters in the book. Then I dressed and off we flew to New York to meet some girls. As we rode in the bus in the weird phosphorescent void of the Lincoln Tunnel we leaned on each other with fingers waving and yelled and talked excitedly, and I was beginning to get the bug like Dean. He was simply a youth tremendously excited with life, and though he was a con-man, he was only conning because he wanted so much to live and to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no attention to him. He was conning me and I knew it (for room and board and “how-to-write,” etc.), and he knew I knew (this has been the basis of our relationship), but I didn’t care and we got along fine—no pestering, no catering; we tiptoed around each other like heartbreaking new friends. I began to learn from him as much as he probably learned from me. As far as my work was concerned he said, “Go ahead, everything you do is great.” He watched over my shoulder as I wrote stories, yelling, “Yes! That’s right! Wow! Man!” and “Phew!” and wiped his face with his handkerchief. “Man, wow, there’s so many things to do, so many things to write! How to even begin to get it all down and without modified restraints and all hung-up on like literary inhibitions and grammatical fears . . .”
“That’s right, man, now you’re talking.” And a kind of holy lightning I saw flashing from his excitement and his visions, which he described so torrentially that people in buses looked around to see the “overexcited nut.” In the West he’d spent a third of his time in the poolhall, a third in jail, and a third in the public library. They’d seen him rushing eagerly down the winter streets, bareheaded, carrying books to the poolhall, or climbing trees to get into the attics of buddies where he spent days reading or hiding from the law.
We went to New York—I forget what the situation was, two colored girls—there were no girls there; they were supposed to meet him in a diner and didn’t show up. We went to his parking lot where he had a few things to do—change his clothes in the shack in back and spruce up a bit in front of a cracked mirror and so on, and then we took off. And that was the night Dean met Carlo Marx. A tremendous thing happened when Dean met Carlo Marx. Two keen minds that they are, they took to each other at the drop of a hat. Two piercing eyes glanced into two piercing eyes—the holy con-man with the shining mind, and the sorrowful poetic con-man with the dark mind that is Carlo Marx. From that moment on I saw very little of Dean, and I was a little sorry too. Their energies met head-on, I was a lout compared, I couldn’t keep up with them. The whole mad swirl of everything that was to come began then; it would mix up all my friends and all I had left of my family in a big dust cloud over the American Night. Carlo told him of Old Bull Lee, Elmer Hassel, Jane: Lee in Texas growing weed, Hassel on Riker’s Island, Jane wandering on Times Square in a benzedrine hallucination, with her baby girl in her arms and ending up in Bellevue. And Dean told Carlo of unknown people in the West like Tommy Snark, the clubfooted poolhall rotation shark and cardplayer and queer saint. He told him of Roy Johnson, Big Ed Dunkel, his boyhood buddies, his street buddies, his innumerable girls and sex-parties and pornographic pictures, his heroes, heroines, adventures. They rushed down the street together, digging everything in the early way they had, which later became so much sadder and perceptive and blank. But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” What did they call such young people in Goethe’s Germany? Wanting dearly to learn how to write like Carlo, the first thing you know, Dean was attacking him with a great amorous soul such as only a con-man can have. “Now, Carlo, let me speak—here’s what I’m saying . . .”. I didn’t see them for about two weeks, during which time they cemented their relationship to fiendish allday-allnight talk proportions.
Then came spring, the great time of traveling, and everybody in the scattered gang was getting ready to take one trip or another. I was busily at work on my novel and when I came to the halfway mark, after a trip down South with my aunt to visit my brother Rocco, I got ready to travel West for the very first time.
Dean had already left. Carlo and I saw him off at the 34th Street Greyhound station. Upstairs they had a place where you could make pictures for a quarter. Carlo took off his glasses and looked sinister. Dean made a profile shot and looked coyly around. I took a straight picture that made me look like a thirty-year-old Italian who’d kill anybody who said anything against his mother. This picture Carlo and Dean neatly cut down the middle with a razor and saved a half each in their wallets. Dean was wearing a real Western business suit for his big trip back to Denver; he’d finished his first fling in New York. I say fling, but he only worked like a dog in parking lots. The most fantastic parking-lot attendant in the world, he can back a car forty miles an hour into a tight squeeze and stop at the wall, jump out, race among fenders, leap into another car, circle it fifty miles an hour in a narrow space, back swiftly into tight spot, hump, snap the car with the emergency so that you see it bounce as he flies out; then clear to the ticket shack, sprinting like a track star, hand a ticket, leap into a newly arrived car before the owner’s half out, leap literally under him as he steps out, start the car with the door flapping, and roar off to the next available spot, arc, pop in, brake, out, run; working like that without pause eight hours a night, evening rush hours and after-theater rush hours, in greasy wino pants with a frayed fur-lined jacket and beat shoes that flap. Now he’d bought a new suit to go back in; blue with pencil stripes, vest and all—eleven dollars on Third Avenue, with a watch and watch chain, and a portable typewriter with which he was going to start writing in a Denver rooming house as soon as he got a job there. We had a farewell meal of franks and beans in a Seventh Avenue Riker’s, and then Dean got on the bus that said Chicago and roared off into the night. There went our wrangler. I promised myself to go the same way when spring really bloomed and opened up the land.
And this was really the way that my whole road experience began, and the things that were to come are too fantastic not to tell.

Yes, and it wasn’t only because I was a writer and needed new experiences that I wanted to know Dean more, and because my life hanging around the campus had reached the completion of its cycle and was stultified, but because, somehow in spite of our difference in character, he reminded me of some long-lost brother; the sight of his suffering bony face with the long sideburns and his straining muscular sweating neck made me remember my boyhood in those dye-dumps and swim-holes and riversides of Paterson and the Passaic. His dirty workclothes clung to him so gracefully, as though you couldn’t buy a better fit from a custom tailor but only earn it from the Natural Tailor of Natural Joy, as Dean had, in his stresses. And in his excited way of speaking I heard again the voices of old companions and brothers under the bridge, among the motorcycles, along the wash-lined neighborhood and drowsy doorsteps of afternoon where boys played guitars while their older brothers worked in the mills. All my other current friends were “intellectuals”—Chad the Nietzschean anthropologist, Carlo Marx and his nutty surrealist low-voiced serious staring talk, Old Bull Lee and his critical anti-everything drawl—or else they were slinking criminals like Elmer Hassel, with that hip sneer; Jane Lee the same, sprawled on the Oriental cover of her couch, sniffing at the New Yorker. But Dean’s intelligence was every bit as formal and shining and complete, without the tedious intellectualness. And his “criminality” was not something that sulked and sneered; it was a wild yea-saying overburst of American joy; it was Western, the west wind, an ode from the Plains, something new, long prophesied, long a-coming (he only stole cars for joy rides). Besides, all my New York friends were in the negative, nightmare position of putting down society and giving their tired bookish or political or psychoanalytical reasons, but Dean just raced in society, eager for bread and love; he didn’t care one way or the other, “so long’s I can get that lil ole gal with that lil sumpin down there tween her legs, boy,” and “so long’s we can eat, son, y’ear me? I’m hungry, I’m starving, let’s eat right now!”—and off we’d rush to eat, whereof, as saith Ecclesiastes, “It is your portion under the sun.”
A western kinsman of the sun, Dean. Although my aunt warned me that he would get me in trouble, I could hear a new call and see a new horizon, and believe it at my young age; and a little bit of trouble or even Dean’s eventual rejection of me as a buddy, putting me down, as he would later, on starving sidewalks and sickbeds—what did it matter? I was a young writer and I wanted to take off.
Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything ; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.
In the month of July 1947, having saved about fifty dollars from old veteran benefits, I was ready to go to the West Coast. My friend Remi Boncœur had written me a letter from San Francisco, saying I should come and ship out with him on an around-the-world liner. He swore he could get me into the engine room. I wrote back and said I’d be satisfied with any old freighter so long as I could take a few long Pacific trips and come back with enough money to support myself in my aunt’s house while I finished my book. He said he had a shack in Mill City and I would have all the time in the world to write there while we went through the rigmarole of getting the ship. He was living with a girl called Lee Ann; he said she was a marvelous cook and everything would jump. Remi was an old prep-school friend, a Frenchman brought up in Paris and a really mad guy—I didn’t know how mad at this time. So he expected me to arrive in ten days. My aunt was all in accord with my trip to the West; she said it would do me good, I’d been working so hard all winter and staying in too much; she even didn’t complain when I told her I’d have to hitchhike some. All she wanted was for me to come back in one piece. So, leaving my big half-manuscript sitting on top of my desk, and folding back my comfortable home sheets for the last time one morning, I left with my canvas bag in which a few fundamental things were packed and took off for the Pacific Ocean with the fifty dollars in my pocket.
I’d been poring over maps of the United States in Paterson for months, even reading books about the pioneers and savoring names like Platte and Cimarron and so on, and on the roadmap was one long red line called Route 6 that led from the tip of Cape Cod clear to Ely, Nevada, and there dipped down to Los Angeles. I’ll just stay on 6 all the way to Ely, I said to myself and confidently started. To get to 6 I had to go up to Bear Mountain. Filled with dreams of what I’d do in Chicago, in Denver, and then finally in San Fran, I took the Seventh Avenue subway to the end of the line at 242nd Street, and there took a trolley into Yonkers; in downtown Yonkers I transferred to an outgoing trolley and went to the city limits on the east bank of the Hudson River. If you drop a rose in the Hudson River at its mysterious source in the Adiron dacks, think of all the places it journeys by as it goes out to sea forever—think of that wonderful Hudson Valley. I started hitching up the thing. Five scattered rides took me to the desired Bear Mountain Bridge, where Route 6 arched in from New England. It began to rain in torrents when I was let off there. It was mountainous. Route 6 came over the river, wound around a traffic circle, and disappeared into the wilderness. Not only was there no traffic but the rain came down in buckets and I had no shelter. I had to run under some pines to take cover; this did no good; I began crying and swearing and socking myself on the head for being such a damn fool. I was forty miles north of New York; all the way up I’d been worried about the fact that on this, my big opening day, I was only moving north instead of the so-longed-for west. Now I was stuck on my northernmost hangup. I ran a quarter-mile to an abandoned cute English-style filling station and stood under the dripping eaves. High up over my head the great hairy Bear Mountain sent down thunderclaps that put the fear of God in me. All I could see were smoky trees and dismal wilderness rising to the skies. “What the hell am I doing up here?” I cursed, I cried for Chicago. “Even now they’re all having a big time, they’re doing this, I’m not there, when will I get there!”—and so on. Finally a car stopped at the empty filling station; the man and the two women in it wanted to study a map. I stepped right up and gestured in the rain; they consulted; I looked like a maniac, of course, with my hair all wet, my shoes sopping. My shoes, damn fool that I am, were Mexican huaraches, plantlike sieves not fit for the rainy night of America and the raw road night. But the people let me in and rode me north to Newburgh, which I accepted as a better alternative than being trapped in the Bear Mountain wilderness all night. “Besides,” said the man, “there’s no traffic passes through 6. If you want to go to Chicago you’d do better going across the Holland Tunnel in New York and head for Pittsburgh,” and I knew he was right. It was my dream that screwed up, the stupid hearthside idea that it would be wonderful to follow one great red line across America instead of trying various roads and routes.
In Newburgh it had stopped raining. I walked down to the river, and I had to ride back to New York in a bus with a delegation of schoolteachers coming back from a weekend in the mountains—chatter-chatter blah-blah, and me swearing for all the time and the money I’d wasted, and telling myself, I wanted to go west and here I’ve been all day and into the night going up and down, north and south, like something that can’t get started. And I swore I’d be in Chicago tomorrow, and made sure of that, taking a bus to Chicago, spending most of my money, and didn’t give a damn, just as long as I’d be in Chicago tomorrow.
It was an ordinary bus trip with crying babies and hot sun, and countryfolk getting on at one Penn town after another, till we got on the plain of Ohio and really rolled, up by Ashtabula and straight across Indiana in the night. I arrived in Chi quite early in the morning, got a room in the Y, and went to bed with a very few dollars in my pocket. I dug Chicago after a good day’s sleep.
The wind from Lake Michigan, bop at the Loop, long walks around South Halsted and North Clark, and one long walk after midnight into the jungles, where a cruising car followed me as a suspicious character. At this time, 1947, bop was going like mad all over America. The fellows at the Loop blew, but with a tired air, because bop was somewhere between its Charlie Parker Ornithology period and another period that began with Miles Davis. And as I sat there listening to that sound of the night which bop has come to represent for all of us, I thought of all my friends from one end of the country to the other and how they were really all in the same vast backyard doing something so frantic and rushing-about. And for the first time in my life, the following afternoon, I went into the West. It was a warm and beautiful day for hitchhiking. To get out of the impossible complexities of Chicago traffic I took a bus to Joliet, Illinois, went by the Joliet pen, stationed myself just outside town after a walk through its leafy rickety streets behind, and pointed my way. All the way from New York to Joliet by bus, and I had spent more than half my money.
My first ride was a dynamite truck with a red flag, about thirty miles into great green Illinois, the truckdriver pointing out the place where Route 6, which we were on, intersects Route 66 before they both shoot west for incredible distances. Along about three in the afternoon, after an apple pie and ice cream in a roadside stand, a woman stopped for me in a little coupe. I had a twinge of hard joy as I ran after the car. But she was a middle-aged woman, actually the mother of sons my age, and wanted somebody to help her drive to Iowa. I was all for it. Iowa! Not so far from Denver, and once I got to Denver I could relax. She drove the first few hours, at one point insisted on visiting an old church somewhere, as if we were tourists, and then I took over the wheel and, though I’m not much of a driver, drove clear through the rest of Illinois to Davenport, Iowa, via Rock Island. And here for the first time in my life I saw my beloved Mississippi River, dry in the summer haze, low water, with its big rank smell that smells like the raw body of America itself because it washes it up. Rock Island—railroad tracks, shacks, small downtown section; and over the bridge to Davenport, same kind of town, all smelling of sawdust in the warm midwest sun. Here the lady had to go on to her Iowa hometown by another route, and I got out.
The sun was going down. I walked, after a few cold beers, to the edge of town, and it was a long walk. All the men were driving home from work, wearing railroad hats, baseball hats, all kinds of hats, just like after work in any town anywhere. One of them gave me a ride up the hill and left me at a lonely crossroads on the edge of the prairie. It was beautiful there. The only cars that came by were farmer-cars; they gave me suspicious looks, they clanked along, the cows were coming home. Not a truck. A few cars zipped by. A hotrod kid came by with his scarf flying. The sun went all the way down and I was standing in the purple darkness. Now I was scared. There weren’t even any lights in the Iowa countryside; in a minute nobody would be able to see me. Luckily a man going back to Davenport gave me a lift downtown. But I was right where I started from.
I went to sit in the bus station and think this over. I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that’s practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious and it was delicious, of course. I decided to gamble. I took a bus in downtown Davenport, after spending a half-hour watching a waitress in the bus-station café, and rode to the city limits, but this time near the gas stations. Here the big trucks roared, wham, and inside two minutes one of them cranked to a stop for me. I ran for it with my soul whoopeeing. And what a driver—a great big tough truckdriver with popping eyes and a hoarse raspy voice who just slammed and kicked at everything and got his rig under way and paid hardly any attention to me. So I could rest my tired soul a little, for one of the biggest troubles hitchhiking is having to talk to innumerable people, make them feel that they didn’t make a mistake picking you up, even entertain them almost, all of which is a great strain when you’re going all the way and don’t plan to sleep in hotels. The guy just yelled above the roar, and all I had to do was yell back, and we relaxed. And he balled that thing clear to Iowa City and yelled me the funniest stories about how he got around the law in every town that had an unfair speed limit, saying over and over again, “Them goddam cops can’t put no flies on my ass!” Just as we rolled into Iowa City he saw another truck coming behind us, and because he had to turn off at Iowa City he blinked his tail lights at the other guy and slowed down for me to jump out, which I did with my bag, and the other truck, acknowledging this exchange, stopped for me, and once again, in the twink of nothing, I was in another big high cab, all set to go hundreds of miles across the night, and was I happy! And the new truckdriver was as crazy as the other and yelled just as much, and all I had to do was lean back and roll on. Now I could see Denver looming ahead of me like the Promised Land, way out there beneath the stars, across the prairie of Iowa and the plains of Nebraska, and I could see the greater vision of San Francisco beyond, like jewels in the night. He balled the jack and told stories for a couple of hours, then, at a town in Iowa where years later Dean and I were stopped on suspicion in what looked like a stolen Cadillac, he slept a few hours in the seat. I slept too, and took one little walk along the lonely brick walls illuminated by one lamp, with the prairie brooding at the end of each little street and the smell of the corn like dew in the night.
He woke up with a start at dawn. Off we roared, and an hour later the smoke of Des Moines appeared ahead over the green cornfields. He had to eat his breakfast now and wanted to take it easy, so I went right on into Des Moines, about four miles, hitching a ride with two boys from the University of Iowa; and it was strange sitting in their brand-new comfortable car and hearing them talk of exams as we zoomed smoothly into town. Now I wanted to sleep a whole day. So I went to the Y to get a room; they didn’t have any, and by instinct I wandered down to the railroad tracks—and there’re a lot of them in Des Moines—and wound up in a gloomy old Plains inn of a hotel by the locomotive roundhouse, and spent a long day sleeping on a big clean hard white bed with dirty remarks carved in the wall beside my pillow and the beat yellow windowshades pulled over the smoky scene of the railyards. I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was—I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that’s why it happened right there and then, that strange red afternoon.

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“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

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On the Road 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 202 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Okay, Kerouac was a talented writer. That is plain to see, and anybody who doesn't see it I feel sorry for. And while On the Road was an enjoyable read, one that I don't regret nor ever will, I still can't help but feel disapointed. This was supposed to be meaningful...where is the meaning? Generally, I'm better than most people at finding allegories within works of fiction, being a nit-picky satirist myself. I can give you symbolism for every event in Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. I can give you the moral, philosophical points of Burgess' A Clockwork Orange. I can decode the works of Burroughs. But 'On the Road' left me feeling like it was pointless...a good, enjoyable read, but...pointless. So here's my advice: Read the book, don't believe the hype. Enjoy the story, but don't expect it to be life-changing, intellectually charged, and allegorically moral, like so many fans want you to believe.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jack Kerouac sets out to capture the essence of his beat generation in to one book and for the most part is successful. On the Road chronicles Sal Paradise, an archetype of the beat generation, and his aimless ramblings across the continental US. Living penniless and destitute, Sal travels cross-country several times meets many different people and places, including but not limited to, drunken southern californian vineyard adventures, the hustle and bustle of Manhattan and nocturnal guard shifts at a prison in seattle. The story is interesting and captivating, especially with the broadness of it which makes it relatable to almost anyone's own life experience. Sal's search for a home and a lover and beer, is similar to the younger generation of today, perhaps even the origin. Kerouac's reference towards other Beat Generation notables and friends, like his nod toward Neil Cassady under the guise of Dean Moriarty, gives the reader a sense of who these character's really were and most importantly, what the generation stood for. At times, the narrative can be dull and move slow however, possibly On the Road's greatest strength is that it is realistic, showing an un-biased, impartial perspective of the beat's. Kerouac chooses to leave nothing out, showing a brutal honest picture of the beat generation, the good, the bad and the down right weird. In doing this, he best captures the purpose of the beats. The book is not short of powerful, thought provoking moments which humble the reader, as it should. On the Road is one of the 20th centuries greatest literary achievements.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book started off strong for me and I got into it really fast. About halfway through I started to really hate the characters particularly Sal but I still wanted to keep reading and I am glad that I did. While the characters were completely unlikable to me the way this story shows the expanse of America and represents a different side of this generation than what I am used to reading is great. I definitely thing everyone should read this book it might not be the best book you have ever read but you won't regret reading it!
coolworld888 More than 1 year ago
On the Road is written by Jack Kerouac, published by Penguin in 1955. This book is considered to be an authentic representation of the movement in our society called the "Beat Generation." The book tells of Sal Paradise, and his decision to travel from New York to California during the late forties and early fifties, a time when the nation was recovering from the effects of World War II. The music of the time changed from a swing beat to jazz; this was a change from what was known, to something with a beat--jazz was edgy and different. This change in music was indicative of the change in young people, and this is the adventure from which Kerouac writes, because he was part of this beat generation.
Raven_Nevermore2004 More than 1 year ago
On The Road is a simplistic story about a man who wanted to make a drastic change with his life. Most people don't have the guts to do it. Sal Paradise was unhappy living his life as it was so took off for the west coast in search of...meaning. It was something he was skeptical in doing at first, but his buddy Dean Moriarty was sure this is what he needed. Dean is the extreme adventurous type who can never stay in one place for too long. He is the proof that as much as people need to mix it up, everything needs to be done in moderation. This gives hope to those who would like to have the option to escape from it all. It shows that it can be done. Sal experiences what life is like all throughout the country again and again. It's a scenic trip the whole time that I would recommend to any reader with a free spirit.
antimater More than 1 year ago
a classic american read
Walcott More than 1 year ago
A beautiful novel by a beautiful author, Jack Kerouac has blessed us all with this esoteric, truly original piece of art. The way Kerouac writes should be seen as abstract, for it's by no means technical nor should it be treated as such. With that notion, this novel could use a bit more structure, but I think the sporadic writing is what makes this novel work. All in all, the characters are believable and dastardly charming while the mildly philosophical statements are perfection and not at all over the top. Thank you, Mr. Kerouac, for providing such wonderful escapism.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't get how people don't get this book! It's brilliant. Believe the hype. Having said that, for me, it's not as good as The Dharma Bums, Desolation Angels or Big Sur. But each to their own. Lest us not forget that Kerouac single handedly changed our limits of what could be written and how, just as Naked Lunch did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
“On The Road” is a largely autobiographical account written by Jack Kerouac in the 1950s of his trans-American road trips in the years preceding the completion of the novel. This novel has long been accredited with awakening a sense of wanderlust in the American public largely dormant since the migrations accompanying the Great Depression as well as largely influencing both the Beat generation and the subsequent hippies. It was apparent to me almost immediately upon beginning to read the novel how this might have been possible. In the beginning, Kerouac, written as the character Sal Paradise, puts his life on hold in order to travel across the country. In this alone the reader can see the difference in values and pace of life at that time as opposed to in today’s world. This facet alone instills in the reader a sense of restlessness that stays with you throughout the story as Kerouac and Neal Cassady (as Dean Moriarty) travel across the United States with a slew of other characters, many of them famous Beat poets such as Allan Ginsberg. This enchanting trip not only sends the reader on an unparalleled journey through all aspects of life on the road but also acquaints him with a sense of history and purpose found nowhere but on the American highway. In the novel the reader is introduced to a version of the American Dream that is both new as well as as old as the country itself—a love of travel and of adventure. At this time the journey seemed to be the new destination, and one of the greatest revelations of life was that it should be enjoyed to the point of madness. Kerouac creates an image of nationalism and love of America similar to much of the Beat literature. For the reader the American highway is transformed into a world delicately structured in a balance of give and take, a world where people took care of each other and responsibility could either be avoided with reckless abandon or sought out eternally with the turn of a thumb. Kerouac presents post WWII America in a midst of a generational detachment from the former moral and social norms; at this time Jazz was king, God took the form of George Shearing, and time was measured according to the speedometer. For the characters of the story, a four course meal consisted of apple pie, whiskey, cigarettes and amphetamines, escape was a six letter word, and the road was gateway to the world. Kerouac captures the reader in a tailwind of endless hours and limitless possibilities that he proves time and time again is impossible anywhere but out on the road.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kerouac is astounding with the unrolling and sometimes lengthy prose in this book. His journey enlivens the spirit of what it would be like to take this journey, especially with friends. I would recommend this product along with Eighteen In Cross-country Odyssey by Benjamin Anderson, a tale about an eighteen-year-old’s journey across the United States between his high school and college careers, fraught with quirky encounters and beautiful scenery. Make sure not to miss either book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
(Contains Spoilers) On the Road was a great book. Not the best I've ever read, but I enjoyed it very much. This book appeals to a crowd that can identify, or that likes imagining they are living life on the fringe, with no responsibilities. I did like this idea in the book, but after all that was said in the book, I couldn't tell if there was too much of an overall meaning behind it, or if it was just simply a story. The major topics and ideas that will mostly likely define whether or not you will like this book (I will delve into each) are: the lack of a plot line, new characters being continually introduced, new settings being continually introduced, the beatnik generation, and the lack of romance. The main part of the storyline consists of Sal, the main character, traveling around the U.S. If you enjoy story-lines that take random twists and turns, but aren’t actually leading to much of an end-product, then you may like this story. While the book itself may be trying to say something, the storyline itself seems to lack an end goal. Sal isn’t trying to accomplish anything in his travels. About half the time he is traveling, he doesn’t even choose to travel (his personality is relatively passive), it is usually his friends that decide to go across the country. Personally this is one of the aspects I loved about the book. When a plot is evident, it’s easy to guess how the story may progress. When there isn’t much a plot however, anything is possible in the story. This kept me interested, wondering what may happen next to the characters. For the first half of the book this is the fashion it went in and I loved it. However, after the halfway point, happenings in Sal’s life repeated themselves many times. I felt a great redundancy by the latter part of the book. While this makes sense, since this is based on actual events, which aren’t always super-entertaining, I was reading for enjoyment, and the story slowly lost my attention. Another part of the book I liked was the amount of characters that were introduced in it. If you would rather read about a main character who is independent and strong, this may not be the story for you. Many different characters influence Sal, he isn’t very definitive in comparison to the other characters, and he is quite passive in his personality compared to the other characters. But if you do enjoy these types of characters, Kerouac does a good job of introducing characters that are interesting and who give the story motion (more so than Sal). At the times where Sal is hitchhiking across the country alone, Kerouac uses parallel structure that kept me captivated. Each new person that picked Sal up has a new personality, which was fun to read about. Kerouac did a good job of diversifying the characters in the story, but within limits, which made it engrossing and realistic. This kept me wondering what the next person Sal meets would be like. Not all the characters Sal met would stay in the story: some characters would randomly resurface, some stayed prevalent throughout the story, while others made a big impact on the story, yet appeared once. Going along with the idea of the characters in the story, there are a multitude of different settings introduced in the story. If you prefer a story that takes place in one or few settings, where you can really become familiar with the setting over the entire story, you shouldn’t buy this. However I liked the continually changing setting. As Sal travels around, I got to constantly take in the new settings. It was also interesting to see how the characters adapted to the new settings. This kept the story fresh, in a way, new possibilities arose as new settings (and characters) were presented. Another part of the book that may attract certain readers is the fact that this book is formed around the beatnik generation. If you have a strong connection to that generation, this may be a good book for you. While reading a story in which the setting is exactly how you lived when you were younger, you could make numerous connections with the book. This would make the story much more interesting. I myself couldn’t make those connections, but I did like reading the story because the idea of rejecting traditional living was prominent. As I live a fairly structured life in comparison, it was gripping to be immersed in a story where the characters lived day-to-day and were never anchored down in one location. The characters would not know how they were going to pay for food or room most nights, and they would constantly change jobs, which made the story involving. The last part of the book that may or may not draw in readers is the romantic ideas (or lack thereof) in the book. This may have to do more with the idea of beatniks, but since romance and relationships are major parts of books in general, it can stand alone. Most of the characters in the book have broken relationships that involve cheating, or just leaving their partner while they travel across the country. Even Sal gets in a relationship with a woman whom he leaves without much reason, after living with her and becoming involved in her life. I don’t mind this type of romance in the novel, it seems realistic with the kind of people most of the characters are. But if you’re against this type of relationship, you might not like the book, seeing as most of the male characters seem to objectify woman a lot. Again this seems realistic with their mindset and being in their mid-20s (sorry for the stereotype). Overall I think this book is great and that if you like most of the characteristics named above, then you’ll enjoy the book. It does get relatively redundant towards the second half of the book (it’s realistic, so that makes sense). Bear in mind this is just my opinion on the book, so don’t be afraid to get even if you don’t think you’ll like it. But if you don’t mind the mild redundancy and are interested in the ideas presented, you’ll love it and you may even wish you yourself were On the Road.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ebook version of this does not work! I spent coupla hours online and can't be fixed, got refunded. Great book though (I've read it before)
Bookworm026 More than 1 year ago
GOOD BUT NOT GREAT ! Though On the Road is now a classic and embodies the spirit of the Beat generation, it is not a mind-boggling novel. There is no denying that Kerouac is a great writer but I was a little disappointed when I read the book because I expected it to be more meaningful, a more life-changing experience. I watched the movie just for comparison and I think that it is neither bad nor great and sometimes verges on the bad road movie. Some basic and fundamental elements and some parts of the novel have been altered or completely deleted. It is too bad because the actors are great!!!
GuillermoPaxton More than 1 year ago
A tale of true friendship, forgiveness and freedom, written in the rambling prose of a genius.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was looking forward to reading On the Road, by Jack Kerouac. Unfortunately, with this copy, the actual book doesn't start until page 97. Unfortunately, I was only able to read the first page. My nook has been locked up beyond that point. Save your $14.00
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago