Title: On the Road
Author: Jack Kerouac
Publisher: Penguin Books, 1957
About the author: from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kerouac
Jack Kerouac born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac; March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969) was an American novelist and poet.
He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation. Kerouac is recognized for his method of spontaneous prose. Thematically, his work covers topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel. He became an underground celebrity and, with other beats, a progenitor of the hippie movement, although he remained antagonistic toward some of its politically radical elements.
In 1969, aged 47, Kerouac died from internal bleeding due to long-term alcohol abuse. Since his death, Kerouac’s literary prestige has grown, and several previously unseen works have been published. All of his books are in print today, including The Town and the City, On the Road, Doctor Sax, The Dharma Bums, Mexico City Blues, The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, Visions of Cody, The Sea Is My Brother, and Big Sur.
In this fast-paced novel, we travel with Sal Paradise, Dean Moriary, and an assortment of friends, strangers, and acquaintances on a westbound road trip. Along the way, they have adventures and keep moving.
On the Road is narrated by Sal Paradise, a flawed, spirited character who just wants to roam. It’s an unconventional story, and I enjoyed reading it immensely. In Sal, we have a manic character who needs to get out and experience life. He can’t stay still. It’s about having a life with no ties, no barriers, and no real consequences. Of course, a life like that cannot be sustained, but it’s fun while it lasts.
Written in a stream of stream of consciousness, Sal Paradise doesn’t seem to take a breath. On being a writer, “…what do I really know about it except you’ve got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict.” This story is emotionally intense, noisy and offbeat. That’s exactly what Jack Kerouac has in Sal Paradise. The intensity of the book is maddening. I can just imagine Kerouac on his typewriter, madly banging away at the keys.
Sal says, “…I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” The novel continues at a frenzied pace, like being on a roller coaster you can’t escape. And somehow, you don’t want to. Because you know that sooner rather than later, you’ll reach the end.
Reader’s Annotation: Sal Paradise cannot stay still. And neither will you after reading this novel.
Genre: modern classics, semi-autobiographical fiction
Curriculum Ties: history, writing styles
Booktalking Ideas: If you could go on a road trip like Sal Paradise, where would you go and why?
Reading Level/Interest Age: 16+
Challenge Issues: drug use, profanity,
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Why did you pick this for your collection?
- YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults: Journey > Destination (2009)