Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Legions of youthful Americans have taken On the Road as a manifesto for rebellion and an inspiration to hit the road. But there is much more to the book than that. In Why Kerouac Matters, John Leland embarks on a wry, insightful, and playful discussion of the novel, arguing that it still matters because it lays out an alternative road map to growing up. Along the way, Leland overturns many misconceptions about On the Road as he examines the lessons that Kerouac's alter ego, Sal Paradise, absorbs and dispenses on ...
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Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think)

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Overview

Legions of youthful Americans have taken On the Road as a manifesto for rebellion and an inspiration to hit the road. But there is much more to the book than that. In Why Kerouac Matters, John Leland embarks on a wry, insightful, and playful discussion of the novel, arguing that it still matters because it lays out an alternative road map to growing up. Along the way, Leland overturns many misconceptions about On the Road as he examines the lessons that Kerouac's alter ego, Sal Paradise, absorbs and dispenses on his novelistic journey to manhood, and how those lessons about work and money, love and sex, art and holiness? still reverberate today.


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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Whoever said "time flies" spoke the truth -- 2007 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's On the Road! Over the years, this iconic autobiographical novel has been revered as a passionate paean to freedom and nonconformity, inspiring generations of young people to burst their bonds and "burn, burn, burn." But, as journalist John Leland reveals in this thoughtful exegesis, Kerouac himself had deeper ambitions for his breakthrough work. Shifting focus from the novel's reckless renegade, Dean Moriarty, to narrator Sal Paradise (Kerouac's fictional alter ego), Leland uncovers the spiritual quest at the heart of On the Road -- a journey into adulthood marked by an inchoate longing for family, friendship, and religious faith. It is this passionate pilgrimage that resonates a half century later, reminding us why Kerouac still matters.
Matt Weiland
"Beneath its wild yea-saying," Leland writes, "'On the Road' is a book about how to live your life." Leland is an amiable and at times instructive guide to On the Road, making his way through the book to reveal what he calls its "lessons" on work, love, art and religion. He rightly argues that the book is as much about bookish Sal as crazy Dean, that grief and atonement lie at the core of the story, and that low overhead and a sense of improvisation make for a good life.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Having immersed himself in Beat culture while writing Hip: A History, Leland, a New York Timesreporter and former editor-in-chief of Details, makes a convincing case that Jack Kerouac's most famous novel has endured for half a century because it's "a book about how to live your life." The lesson isn't about impulsive self-gratification, as many readers believe, aided by Kerouac's tendency to go vague in his most emotionally critical passages. Leland reminds us that narrator Sal Paradise was always looking to settle down into a conventional life, and Kerouac, Leland says, was generally of a conservative mindset. Framing On the Roadas a spiritual quest, Leland deftly combines the biographical facts of Kerouac's life with discussions of his literary antecedents in Melville and Goethe, as well as the inspiration he took from contemporary jazz, finding in bebop's rhythms a new way to circle around a story's themes. Section headings like "The 7 Habits of Highly Beat People" get a little silly, but Leland's insights provide new layers of significance even for those familiar with the novel. (Aug. 20)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
David Gates
No one has written better and more intelligently about Kerouac.
Newsweek
The American Book Review
An entertaining and insightful book . . . over and over Leland showed me something new, and just as important, something fun.
Library Journal

On the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Road, New York Timesreporter Leland (Hip: The History) provides a fresh, thought-provoking examination of the Jack Kerouac classic. He explores the novel's themes of male friendship, love and death, family values, jazz, and religion and argues that narrator Sal Paradise's road trips with saintly fool Dean Moriarty constitute an inward journey leading to manhood and maturity. Drawing on Kerouac's own letters and journals as well as on the work of earlier biographers, Leland discusses Kerouac's use of autobiography, focusing on the role of the novel's narrator. He notes that where Sal Paradise succeeds, Kerouac too often fails. Leland's book is one of the first to take advantage of the availability of the original scroll typescript of Kerouac's novel for comparison with the 1957 volume. (Viking will be releasing On the Road: The Original Scrollsimultaneously with the novel's anniversary edition.) Written in an informal, accessible style, it will appeal to Kerouac fans as well as academics. Highly recommended for all literature collections.
—William Gargan

Kirkus Reviews
A pop-culture trifle that tries too hard to make its already accessible subject au courant among the 20-somethings. New York Times style reporter Leland (Hip: The History, 2004) clearly has good intentions in this celebration of the inventor of middle-class white cool (or was that Sinatra?) and good instincts in pointing out the ironies hidden in Jack Kerouac's invention. But it does not do to strive for hipness when discussing such weighty matters, and Leland's prose often falls into a kind of chattiness that would have driven its subject to mad repudiations: "The big kahuna for any god-aspiring novelist is the question of death"; "On the Road is often blamed for America's ongoing goatee problem, but the book is in fact clean-shaven. Kerouac disdained chin spinach, especially on white dudes." Leland's subject has been dead for nearly 40 years, the book that made him famous half a century old now, and the ironies mount: Kerouac was conservative, racist, closeted and a champion of Falwellian family values who "managed a lasting female relationship only with his mother, who supported his writing even as she disapproved of the lives he wrote about." He was a wild celebrant of drugs and booze, hung out with Ginsberg and Burroughs, yet voted for Goldwater. So what are the life lessons to be drawn from the man and his book? Leland offers "Sal's 7 Habits of Highly Beat People," the Sal in question being of course Kerouac's alterego: "Stay on schedule (Tip: don't let jobs get in the way)," "Sell in, not out," and so on; but too little of his book supports his thesis that On the Road is about how to live. A harmless enough entertainment, but vaporous and rather frivolous-an attempt, one suspects,to ride the crest of an anniversary wave that has yet to take shape. Agent: Paul Bresnick/Paul Bresnick Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101202654
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/16/2007
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • File size: 444 KB

Meet the Author

John Leland is a reporter for The New York Times.
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 3 of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 16, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    If you're really interested.

    The insights explored by Leland are thought provoking, but you've reallu got to be into the man and his work's impact to make this worth laboring through. Read this before taking on the original scroll version for sure.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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