I started reading On the Road for many reasons. First of all, Im interested in reading Allen Ginsbergs Howl and Ive heard Jack Kerouacs On the Road is the accompanying prose to Ginsbergs poem. Also, I like to pick up a classic here and there between the more modern literature Im reading, so On the Road seemed like a natural choice.
The story-line of On the Road was intriguing, as its a tribute to the Beat Generation and a travelogue wrapped into one neat package. However, I had great difficulty reading Karouacs spontaneous prose. At times, it was almost poetic in form, but often it was jumbled thoughts and conversations that I found difficult to follow. I had to push myself to finish the book, simply because I was turned off by the writing style.
I must say that I tend to agree with Truman Capotes famous critique of Kerouacs style; Its isnt writing-its typing.
However, I understand the generational significance of On the Road and I still plan to read Howl. I feel like I will have a better understanding of Ginsbergs work having first read Kerouacs prose. Despite my criticisms, Dean Moriarty (the hero of both On the Road and Howl based on the real life friend of Kaurac and Ginsberg-Neal Cassady) is one of my favorite literary characters. His spark and spontaneous personality drive the novel so much so that I would love to have known the real Neal Cassady.
Katie C. reviewed On the Road (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) on
Helpful Score: 2
I loved nearly every moment of it. Incredibly poetic, I so wished I could have been there. Great writing. I won't suggest reading this if you're a feminist of any sort, as Kerouac and Cassidy weren't especially kind to their ladies, but then again, it happens, we move on.
It's not so much that I despised this book - and I did. It's not totally that the characters were unworthy of taking time to think about them - and they were. And it's not so much that the writing style was outdated before it ever appeared with limited vocabulary and overuse of the same-old-adjectives - and it was-was-was. It's more that after finishing it, while praying for Dean's demise in a fiery car crash starting on page 104, I knew my time had been wasted by a con. The book is not even an elaborate con. It's a lazy con about people who like to get drunk and drive around. I thought if I heard the word 'mad' or 'gone' or any of the other stylish and meaningless so-called descriptives one more time I'd get in the car and drive to, oh wherever, drinking and stealing on the way like our heroes. Sadly, I can understand how this became a classic, and a lifestyle. What I can't understand is why I wasted my time.
Michael W. reviewed On the Road (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) on
Helpful Score: 2
Jack Kerouac tells of his travels across the nation, and the stories of fascinating characters he meets along the way such as Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg. A wonderful view of mid twentieth century life among the people who became known as the "Beats."
On the Road wore out its welcome. I was sort of diggin' it at first, the Colorado stuff was interesting. But, eventually I grew tired of the characters, Sal's ramblings and Dean's antics. I just wanted it to end. On the Road may have been a trendsetter in 1957, but it doesn't feel vital to me now.
I just don't get this book... My husband says I'm too old to get it (I'm only 30!!). He says I would get it if I were in my teens or twenties still. To me, this book was just a rambling, nonsensical collection of happenings (I can't call it a "story") of a group of very lost people. Drug addiction, no direction in life, nor any desire to find direction seem to be the central themes in my opinion. I've heard and read that this book defined a generation... the Beat generation... to me this is just sad. Honestly, I was just bored and frustrated by the book's lack of direction or interesting storyline. Stream of consciousness writing makes me want to scream.
This book changed my life. The story of Jack Keuroac and Neal Cassady's journey across america. I cried when the book ended, wanting more. An insight ito the lives of both Jack, Neal and those who were close to them.
Brutally dull and self-indulgent. I had to force myself through it. 310 pages of blah blah blah. A generation of people did nothing but act like self-absorbed, pseudo-intellectual, irresponsible a$$holes? Good to know.
It's not that I disliked the book, it's that I foudn Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty totally unsympathetic. This book is a great window into the Beat Generation, which one definition says was marked by "visceral experiences and search for illumination." The two main characters throw themselves headlong into searching for and experiencing every sensation. They are hungry for experience, and they consume people, food, and miles voraciously. What they don't do is reflect. What they don't do is think about how their actions affect others. The pair is continually searching for "it," without defining what "it" is. When the two reach a place, they don't stay...they simply start moving again.
Three generations of writers, musicians, artists, and poets cite their discovery of On the Road as the event that "set them free."
On the Road chronicles Jack Kerouac's years traveling North America 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 a work of lasting importance. A true classic. A++++++++
Says my husband: "This tale would be unthinkable in the modern world, but is perfectly believable in Kerouac's era and setting. Matt Dillon does a wonderful job at narrating, particularly with the beatnik slang."
I thought On the Road would be a great choice as my road trip book. I was partially right: if it weren't my sole reading material for several weeks, it's unlikely I would have finished this American classic which defined the Beat generation. Exhausted from my own travels, I found it required a lot of concentration to get through the stream-of-consciousness prose. Kerouac gets style points for making it still feel like Sal and Dean's adventures whirled past me. I could see how this story of several cross-country trips set in the late 1940s was a breath of fresh air in the conformist 1950s but the male bonding, with its wake of abandoned women and children, struck me as irresponsible rather than impressive. I am glad to check this off the list of 1001 books you must read before you die.
Kevin R. (kcrouth) - , reviewed On the Road (Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century) on
How very serendipitous that i should finish this book on the author's 95th birthday! RIP Mr. Jack Kerouac. This is one crazy-ass story. I don't know how much of it actually happened, but i believe it is based on real events. It has been referred to as the "Huckleberry Finn" for the author's generation. This story is one (no, actually, MANY) wild ride(s)! It is said to define a generation, or at least a sub-culture of a generation. I just realized that Jack Kerouac and my father were born in the same year - 1922. I am pretty sure that my dad experienced this period of history differently than Sal and Dean in the story, but even with the differences, i see some similarities. Sal's background was different than that of my dad. I do know however that my dad loved to travel. Dad, rather than taking the bus or a travel bureau car, preferred his motorcycle. I do not know how widely he traveled before settling down with my mom, but he never lost the love of traveling across the US and eventually around the world. We made many trips between southern California and the Ozarks of Missouri in my childhood, and dad continued to travel after us kids were grown and gone. I wonder if that love of travel and the open road was truly a part of his generation.
As i said earlier, this story is a series of wild journeys taken in a very different time, but they do capture a freedom and inquisitiveness that continues to be a part of our culture. This was probably the last days an adventure of this type could be undertaken, with the Interstate highway system just around the corner. Although William Least Heat-Moon was able to experience the same flavor of adventure in his excellent Blue Highways journey, with decidedly less flamboyance. Maybe the blue highways are a part of all of us. I certainly like to unplug and hit the road to see where it leads, and hope to do it again soon.
Supposedly one of the most important American novels, but not to me. Kerouac writes like he wishes he were Hemingway and saying all the same things Eliot did in the Wasteland. Traveling around America, from New York, to Denver, to L.A. and San Fran. Everywhere they went it was still America. Only the names have changed. Until they get to Mexico.
There are some really good lines, but it's kind of a boring book to me.