Kerouac - Road Novels, 1957-1960:On the Road, Dharma Bums, the Subterraneans, Tristessa, Lonesome Traveler, Journal Selections

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"Yes, and it wasn't only because I was a writer and needed new experiences that I wanted to know Dean more... but because, somehow, in spite of our difference in character, he reminded me of some long-lost brother; the sight of his suffering bony face with the long sideburns and his straining muscular sweating neck made me remember my boyhood in those dye-dumps and swim holes and riversides of Paterson and the Passaic.... And in his excited way of speaking I heard again the voices of old companions and brothers under the bridge, among the motorcycles, along the wash-lined neighborhood and drowsy doorsteps of afternoon where boys played guitars while their older brothers worked in the mills. All my other current friends were 'intellectuals'--Chad the Nietzschean anthropologist, Carlo Marx and his nutty surrealist low-voiced serious staring talk, Old Bull Lee and his critical anti-everything drawl--or else they were slinking criminals like Elmer Hassel, with that hip sneer; Jane Lee the same, sprawled on the Oriental cover of her couch, sniffing at the New Yorker. But Dean's intelligence was every bit as formal and shining and complete, without the tedious intellectualness. And his "criminality" was not something that sulked and sneered; it was a wild yea-saying overburst of American joy; it was Western, the west wind, an ode from the Plains, something new, long prophesied, long a-coming (he only stole cars for joy rides). Besides, all my New York friends were in the negative, nightmarish position of putting down society and giving their tired bookish or political or psychoanalytical reasons, but Dean just raced in society, eager for bread and love; he didn't care one way or the other, 'so long's I can get that lil ole gal with that lil sumpin does there tween her legs, boy,' and 'so long's we can eat, son, y'ear me? I'm hungry, I'm starving, let's eat right now!'--and off we'd rush to eat, whereof, as saith Ecclesiastes, 'It is your portion under the sun.'"

From On the Road, chosen by bookseller Ali


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 is 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.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation's literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America's best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.

ISBN: 
9781598530124
Author: 
Publisher: 
Binding: 
Hardcover
Publication Date: 
September 6, 2007