Okay my little beatniks, at long last here it, like, is...man. The definitive Beat
Bible—the one that changed the art of the novel, challenged the idea of ordinary
lifestyle, and, much like Hemingway’s The Sun Also
Rises, defined an entire generation.
Sal Paradise is off to
explore America, to find the underbelly of the United States the only way he knows how—by
experiencing each and every detail of life from New York to San Francisco and back again,
several times, over a few long years. He’s joined by the infamous Dean Moriarty (based
on Kerouac's friend, Neil Cassady), one of the most notorious characters in the history
of fiction. Together, the pair drive, hitchhike, and stow away on trains as they make
their way across the country time and again, experiencing as much detail of the American
dream as humanly possible and meeting all kinds of unforgettable characters along the
One of the larger elements of the story is the influence of
music—particularly jazz music—on people at that time, and the maddening beats and rhythms
are described in detail throughout the novel. Somehow the madness of jazz becomes the
perfect soundtrack for the mile-a-minute, free form style that Kerouac masterfully
employs throughout the novel.
The swift contrast to the American
expectation of life comes in the final part of the book, when Moriarty and Paradise head
south of the border and into
Mexico. There they find a very different culture—people
living off of
the land, filled with all kinds of new perspectives on family, work,
and the enjoyment of living.
This book illustrates the American spirit of
adventure with the urgency of a
speeding racehorse, running onward toward a greater
understanding of the
lives of people in different regions and countries and continues
with youth culture, generation after generation.
fast read, and it has a certain exciting quality that is unique to itself alone; in fact,
just reading the book gives you the feeling of complete independence and self-reliance.
So if you’re planning a cross-America road trip of your own, or if you’re just bored with
other, more structured books, then do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of one of my
favorite books of all time, On the Road.