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On the Road ()


Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (55)

It is impossible to imagine why any reader would enjoy this book unless they too long for Neal Cassady to tickle their prostate.  This wretched exercise in homoerotic mythopoetics is almost
exclusively based on Kerouac's infatuation with Cassady, a by-all-accounts beautiful young man who was, meanwhile, little more than a bisexual, car-stealing, alcoholic, drug-addled punk.

Towards the end of the book, as Kerouac lies ill in Mexico and Cassady, quickie divorce from his wife in hand, abandons him to head back to New York & marry anew, we can't help feeling that Kerouac's gotten what he deserved.

But the epitaph for this "novel" must, inevitably, be Truman Capote's brilliant bon mot, On the Road "isn't writing; it's typing."  An immensely stupid and unwarrantedly respected piece of dreck.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (F)

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
    -Biographical Sketch
    -Dharma Beat (ezine)
    -Kerouac Links
    -ARCHIVES : "Jack Kerouac" (Salon)
    -AUDIO : "On the Road" By Jack Kerouac
    -ESSAY: In the Kerouac Archive (Douglas Brinkley, The Atlantic)
    -REVIEW:  Ladder to Nirvana: A review of Jack Kerouac's On the Road (Phoebe Lou Adams, The Atlantic, O C T O B E R   1 9 5 7)
    -Flashback: Kerouac and the Beats (The Atlantic)
    -ESSAY: KEROUAC AT THE END OF THE ROAD (Richard Hill. NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: Desolation Angel  Ann Douglas finds the road less traveled in Jack Kerouac's latest volume of letters, which documents the novelist's rise to fame and the horrors of being constantly misunderstood. (Ann Douglas, VLS)
    -ESSAY : Kerouac's estate is full of surprises (HILLEL ITALIE, August 22, 2001, ASSOCIATED PRESS)
    -ESSAY : A glimpse of Kerouac's famous 'scroll'  Original 'On the Road' hits the road this week (David Kipen, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Atop an Underwood by Jack Kerouac (Jeffrey Bartlett, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW: The Only People for Him The Portable Jack Kerouac and Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-1956, edited by Ann Charters (Ralph Lombreglia, The Atlantic)

Comments:

This is the absolute dumbest review of the great Jack Kerouac I've ever read.

- Ken Goodman

- Jul-06-2007, 20:45

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What's wrong with having your prostate tickled? 'On the Road' is an immensely important historical document; and far ahead of its time. You should see the original scroll. In contrast to Capote, whose strict revisionism was notorious, Kerouac furiously wrote OTR in something like 3 and 1/2 weeks. I agree that it is an imperfect novel. But not for the reasons you cited. You don't seem to possess enough maturity to be reviewing books.

- Irwin

- Apr-14-2006, 14:00

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Buck:

No, moral relativism is your philosophy, not that of most of us. These aren't post-modern times, nor even modern. We're an antiquated nation and fortunately so.

- oj

- Feb-06-2006, 22:08

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Oops. Something else caught my eye as I was leaving...

Robert on this thread made the following comment: "moral relativism is not a valid philosophy, it is an excuse for hypocrisy"

First off... moral relativism isn't a philosophy, it's a fact of life for all of us in the modern and post modern world. So to accuse Mr. Kerouac and the beats, or earlier as you did with Hemingway, Fitzgerald and other ex-pats, is not only unfair but silly ----- silly stupid in that it reveals a shrouded understanding of mores in previous eras. (Or is it easier burrowing under the security blanket of what we, at the moment, believe to be right, wrong, fair and good? Yes, undoubtedly it is, but it's an inaccurate barometer by which to guage an author's relevance within God's grand design.)

Where you go off the boil is accusing Kerouac of using moral relativism as an 'excuse for hypocrisy' Can you possibly mean that? And if so... How can you make that assesment without having never known the man personally, or having never personally experienced the times in which he lived? It may be easy now, in our morally relativistic age, but it hasn't always been thus. There once was a time of straight lines and right angles, as well as unbending and unyielding pronouncements on what was morally ethical. Many -- Kerouac and Ginsberg, as well as Martin Luther King and thousands of oppressed blacks, latinos, women, and anyone else not 'gelling' with country club America -- no doubt took a dim view of that idea. Thank goodness they did, and thank God they had enough talent and charisma to give weight to their expression.

- Buck Cronkite

- Feb-06-2006, 21:46

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I heartily second Buck's emotion--if you think you're required to believe the opinion-makers at the Times you're better off gargling.

- oj

- Feb-06-2006, 21:45

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A comment? on your review? hardly worth the effort but here goes... after reading the put down of not only Kerouac but also Donleavy's Ginger Man I've got only one thing to say: You've got balls... or rather, You wish you had them and this is a way of letting everyone know. It's pretty transparent, if not stupid, to go against the NY Times and every other American newspapers list of the top 100 recommended literary efforts of all time... to say nothing of the suggestions made by the foreign press (J.K. midcharts tween 40 to 60 on all of 'em.) But this kind of hubris makes you, as George Kaufmann observed, a eunuch at an orgy... you may think you know how but you can't really do it yourselves.

I'll be gone--- off to look for a powerful enough mouth wash to spit the taste of your 'review' down the tubes... that of course is where it really belongs, lid tight.

- Buck Cronkite

- Feb-06-2006, 21:05

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What sort of school do you go to--we never had a Hitler.

- Tim

- May-11-2005, 17:18

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oj:

I guess I'm just a lost college kid. Fortunately for me I'm not persecuted for my views. Hopefully you will never have any power in this country. We don't need another Hitler...

- Tim

- May-11-2005, 16:42

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Tim:

Easily deceived, aren't you?

- oj

- May-08-2005, 20:06

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Blaze:

try again without profanity--this isn't a beat site

- oj

- May-08-2005, 19:25

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oj:

On the road is not an autoboigraphy. It is a loosely translated story of Jack Kerouac's life. If you read the novel you will realize that Jack Kerouac's name is never mentioned. He is always referred to as Sal, and Neal Cassady is always called Dean Moriarty. THE NOVEL IS NOT TRUE, THAT'S WHY IT IS A NOVEL.

- Tim

- May-08-2005, 19:10

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Tim:

Of course it's autobiography. Didn't you read the box?

- oj

- May-08-2005, 18:43

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You refer to Sal Paradise (the main character) as Jack Kerouac, and Dean Moriarty as Neal Cassady. The book is not an autobiography, and Kerouac is not the narrator. Orrin, you should think about writing reviews for things like Kraft Easy Mac before you review another book.

- Tim

- May-08-2005, 18:32

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When I "grow up" I will hope my children read this book as well only so that they can be impacted in the way this book has impacted people for 50 years. This book was written for a generation of people who lived during World War II, when pieces like On The Road were considered offensive. I'm sorry, but if you consider Kerouac a bad novelist, then you probably consider Hemingway a bad one too. Go to college and take a literature class... you don't know what you're talking about.

- Garvan

- May-08-2005, 18:28

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Garvan:

When you grow up you'll be embarrassed that you liked it.

- oj

- May-08-2005, 14:25

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Being a college student, On the Road has had a large impact on my life. Your review does nothing but bash on an instance of individualism, and you don't back up your comments in any way. I'm sorry, but a half-decent book review in my opinion should contain more than four sentences. Your banner for your website contains what I assume is the two brothers in front of the American flag, but it seems you should change that to a confederate flag.

- Garvan

- May-08-2005, 14:15

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Your opinion is your opinion, but show some respect. Though you may not like the novel, you cannot avoid the statement that it began an era which denounced conformity and promoted individualism. I see through your "review" and diagnose you homophobic. Maybe your jealousy of Kerouac's writing ability is the motive of this disgustingly immature book review.

- cody

- Jan-09-2005, 19:18

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I just saw the On The Road exhibit with the original manuscript at the History Museum here in Orlando. It made me realize two things:

1) my opinion of this book is mostly the same today as when I first read it, in college ten years ago: it has a valid place in 20th century American literature, but the endless prattling on about simplistic truths of everyday life do not make for brilliant insight into the human condition or American life; (perhaps Capote was right--it really is mostly just typing);

2) the breathless reverence for kerouac, ginsberg, and the rest fo them is hollow and undeserved; and not at all surprising that this empty navel-gazing sort of thought provided much of the philosophical foundation for the baby boomer's counter-culture.

moral relativism is not a valid philosophy, it is an excuse for hypocrisy--and this book, barely historically valid though it may be, is one of the many elements that brought it on.

- Robert

- Mar-29-2004, 16:24

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and what did you ever contribute to humanity, mr orrin whoever you are? apart from snide comments...

- alex

- Mar-28-2004, 16:46

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I agree that you should think about re-reading the book, but for a different reason. You of all people should have picked up on the fact that this is actually a deeply conservative book. Oh, yes. Each of Sal and Dean's journeys, which are so much fun while they are going on, end in disaster and misery. Finally, Sal realizes that he must leave Dean behind and enter the adult world. Here is a particularly illuminating passage: Snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilized-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, or actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. All of it inside endless and beginningless emptiness. Pitiful forms of ignorance.

Despite Capote's famous dismissal, Kerouac is a talented enough writer to have fooled generations of critics and readers into remembering the intoxicating descriptions of the joys of the beginnings of each journey onto the road, rather than the brutal endings. The book wasn't meant as an inspiration. It was meant as a warning.

- brian

- Feb-13-2004, 22:23

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you are clearly an idiot

- ryan thompson

- Sep-17-2003, 14:52

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your 'review' of 'On the Road' by Kerouac is one of the most unjust pieces of written shit i have ever read! have you ever actually READ the book? The book is not about the escapaes of what you call 'drug-addled punks'. It is a book on the depth and wanting of the so-called 'American dream' - people who, like the rest of us are trying to make their way the best they can with what they have. The friendship between Sal and Dean is a tender one, but thereis no homosexuality - Sal admires the ferocity of the fire that burns within Dean, as he sees something in Deam's 'freedom' which is something Sal craves himself, though it becomes apparent that Dean really is not as free as Sal first thought, he is in fact, a lonely, sad, mad person in need of as much comfort as Sal himself. It is a wonderful book - the sad beauty of a life on the road is the perfect analogy for the travells we face through life. After all, we all at some point know someone like Dean - alight with joy and sadness for the place we live. Read it again.

- kharris@netmail.northox.ac.ukac.ukx

- Jun-04-2003, 10:03

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