On The RoadBook - 1976
September 5th, 2017 marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of On the Road
Inspired by Jack Kerouac's adventures with Neal Cassady, On the Road tells the story of two friends whose cross-country road trips are a quest for meaning and true experience. Written with a mixture of sad-eyed naiveté and wild ambition and imbued with Kerouac's love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz, On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope, a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up.
From the critics
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Perhaps the most famous chronicle of the road trip genre is Jack Kerouac's enduring classic, ON THE ROAD (New American Library, $3.95). Originally published in 1957, it tosses convention on its ear and through a seemingly endless series of run-on sentences put the Beat Generation firmly on the map. Composed of other disenfranchised souls in search of It, Beats reveled in a freaky booze-addled, drug-induced alt-reality that lent to misfits a sense of belonging, altogether divorced of the post-war apocalyptic military-industrial fever quietly sweeping through "respectable" circles of society.
The story follows Sal Paradise in his pursuit west from New York to Denver, then San Francisco, back the other direction and eventually south to Mexico and back, often in the presence of Dean Moriarty a practically god-like figure in Sal's eyes for his checkered past and bold pursuit of self-gratification. Although Dean comes across as a cool cat, by story's end we realize it's a false persona, a band-aid for the father issues he's plagued with.
Maybe more than any other book in American Literature, ON THE ROAD created a subculture movement by exposing and celebrating it. With Woodstock, sixties counterculture was brought mainstream. Kerouac, with ON THE ROAD, did the same for the Beats.
A decent but not outstanding adaptation of Kerouac's novel. This one always seemed too hard to film, and indeed, the end result isn't the best result, but seeing the characters come off the pages and alive is enjoyable and Viggo Mortensen as William S. Burroughs is a scene stealer.
Kerouac wrote most of his famous book on a scroll through his typewriter so he would keep a continuous train of thought. The resulting manuscript is now available here (though, not in scroll form!) to be read as Kerouac originally wrote it, with the names of his fellow "Beat" friends and authors named. It's an exhaustive read but worth it for the fans.
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. . . the junior Moriarty trapped as it were in his father's legacy, [is] pursued by Sal just as his father is pursued by the son, eternally just out of reach.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones 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 roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”
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