Monday, August 4, 2014

Recently Read: On the Road

Author: Jack Kerouac
Genre: Classic Fiction
Year Published: 1957
Status: Part of the Duluoz Legend but can be read as a standalone
Page Count: 308
Rating: 4/5

I finally finished On the Road by Jack Kerouac. It took me a while to finish this book thanks to a combination of things. This book is a little slow moving, and I also moved into an apartment recently, so packing and unpacking took up a lot of time and energy. Even though it was a slow read, I still enjoyed the book.

This is one of America's best known novels, and it is perhaps the defining novel of the Beatnik literary movement. I talked in depth about the Beat movement in my Literary Look post. There are two versions of this novel, so be aware of which you would like to read and which one you purchase. The Original Scroll version is the novel in its first draft form with no paragraph breaks and minimal punctuation. I did not read this version, I read a regular version. Both versions contain the same text, it is just formatted differently.

This novel is the narrative of Jack Kerouac's travels through out the United States with Neal Cassady. (Both men are pictured on the cover above, Neal on the left, Jack on the right. Kerouac is very, very handsome.) Other prominent Beat figures such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs make appearances as well, but all the names have been changed in order to protect everyone. Kerouac appears as Sal Paradise, Cassady is Dean Moriarty, Ginsberg is Carlo Marx, and Burroughs is Old Bull Lee. This book is part of what Kerouac named the Duluoz Legend, which are the books that chronicle his life and relationships with other artists.

This book has little plot besides the traveling of poor and careless men, but the writing is so beautiful at times. Part of the reason the writing is so great is because it is simple and true. Kerouac doesn't use a lot of elaborate metaphors or fancy language; he just tells the story exactly as it happened. What really kept me turning the page was the interesting characters. Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) is such an interesting character and he has such an effect on everyone around him. Even though he is quite careless and irresponsible, you see him through Sal's (Kerouac) eyes and grow to pity and care for him. Kerouac makes these unreliable and irresponsible characters admirable by drawing attention to their bravery and sense of adventure.

I found the world that these characters lived in to be so different from the world we live in today, and found their lives fascinating, even though it is a lifestyle I would never want to live myself. I enjoyed Kerouac's narration and found his voice to sweet. I am interesting in reading the rest of the books in the Duluoz Legend, but the books that take place after On the Road more so than the books that come before.

Duluoz Legend 
Visions of Gerard
Doctor Sax
The Town and the City
Maggie Cassady
Vanity of Duluoz
On the Road
Visions of Cody
The Subterraneans
The Dharma Bums
Desolation Angels
Big Surr
Satori in Paris

Examples of Kerouac's Writing 

 “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."

“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”


  1. My sister loves this book - I recognize its importance in the literary canon, but it's just never been for me.

    1. I can totally understand why people wouldn't care for this book, it is rather slow and without a fast moving plot. But the characters are so interesting and they are what kept me interested.