Synopses & Reviews
The raucous, exuberant, often wildly funny account of a journey through America and Mexico, Jack Kerouac's On the Road
instantly defined a generation on its publication in 1957: it was, in the words of a New York Times
reviewer, "the clearest and most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as 'beat.'" Written in the mode of ecstatic improvisation that Allen Ginsberg described as "spontaneous bop prosody," Kerouac's novel remains electrifying in its thirst for experience and its defiant rebuke of American conformity.
In his portrayal of the fervent relationship between the writer Sal Paradise and his outrageous, exasperating, and inimitable friend Dean Moriarty, Kerouac created one of the great friendships in American literature; and his rendering of the cities and highways and wildernesses that his characters restlessly explore are a hallucinatory travelogue of a nation he both mourns and celebrates. Now, The Library of America collects On the Road together with four other autobiographical "road books" published during a remarkable four-year period.
The Dharma Bums (1958), at once an exploration of Buddhist spirituality and an account of the Bay Area poetry scene, is notable for its thinly veiled portraits of Kerouac's acquaintances, including Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Kenneth Rexroth. The Subterraneans (1958) recounts a love affair set amid the bars and bohemian haunts of San Francisco. Tristessa (1960) is a melancholy novella describing a relationship with a prostitute in Mexico City. Lonesome Traveler (1960) collects travel essays that evoke journeys in Mexico and Europe, and concludes with an elegiac lament for the lost world of the American hobo. Also included in Road Novels are selections from Kerouac's journal, which provide a fascinating perspective on his early impressions of material eventually incorporated into On the Road.
"Road's anniversary will lure new readers as well as old ones looking for another fix, and this collection is a wonderful bargain. Happy anniversary, Jack." Library Journal
About the Author
Jack Kerouac was born in 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts. He attended local Catholic and public schools and won a scholarship to Columbia University in New York, where he met Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. His first novel, The Town and the City
, appeared in 1950, but it was On the Road
, published by Viking in 1957, that made him one of the best known authors of his time. Kerouac died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969, at the age of forty-seven.
Douglas Brinkley, editor, is professor of history and director of the Roosevelt Center at Tulane University and the author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Four of his previous books were selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year. A contributing editor to Vanity Fair, he lives in New Orleans with his wife and two children, where he is working on a biography of Jack Kerouac.