On the Road

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On the RoadOn the Road by Jack Kerouac

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac’s years traveling North America with his friend Neal Cassady. The novel is largely autobiographical with “Sal Paradise” being the author, and “Dean Moriarty” being Neal Cassady, “a young Gene Autry—trim, thin-hipped, blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent—a sideburned hero of the snowy West.” 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.

I gave this novel 3 Stars — because I Liked It. I read this book as a participant in the Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma, Journey Stories book and discussion program.

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!”

Sal Paradise, young and innocent, joins the slightly crazed Dean Moriarty on a ride back and forth across the United States. Their hedonistic search for fulfillment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz becomes an exploration of personal freedom, a test of the limits of the American dream. A blend of fiction and autobiography, Jack Kerouac’s novel defined the Beat Generation.

They were like the man with the dungeon stone and the gloom, rising from the underground, the sordid hipsters of America, a new beat generation that I was slowly joining.

On the Road was written in three weeks in April 1951. The original manuscript was written on a scroll, a continuous one hundred and twenty-foot scroll of tracing paper sheets that Jack Kerouac cut to size and taped together. The scroll was typed single-spaced, without margins or paragraph breaks. Besides differences in formatting, the published novel was shorter than the original scroll manuscript and used pseudonyms for all of the major characters.

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2 responses »

    • Even so, the published version excluded some of the more salacious depictions in the scroll, because they were considered pornographic in 1950s. But I think it was the novel’s deference for the nonconformist life style that kept it off the silver screen.

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