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On the Road with Dean and Sal

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“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are 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 things, but burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes ‘AWWW!'” -Jack Kerouac

This quote is how my high school Economics teacher started out the recommendation letter he wrote for me. I thought it was a wicked cool quote but I never understood it. After reading On The Road I now understand what he was saying.

I think almost everyone can relate to Sal and Dean at different points in their life. I also think that a lot of us would like to be more like them and their whimsical ability to just take off into the unknown and leave their commitments behind. I think being able to live this vicariously through these characters is what makes this book great. The prose is fantastic in the way that Kerouac uses words to try and make life and living sound poetic just by being. I have never been to Nebraska, Denver, San Francisco, or Mexico but they way he describes it you want to pack your bags and go. Nebraska and Iowa never sounded so interesting.

If DeToqueville is the first great chronicler of America, I think Kerouac takes it a step further. I enjoyed how much like Thompson he not only reports but is part of the story. Being as you can not remove yourself from empiric study I think it is great that they not only include themselves but make it the basis of the research. On The Road is a book about journeys, relationships, and a time capsule of a generation long since gone.

Although we still have hipsters they are not Kerouac’s hipsters. We no longer hitch though Iowa digging the people and fields and towns. We no longer have travel bureaus where you can get a shared-gas ride across the country. We can only go their in our minds, and what a wonderful trip it is. If you find yourself tied down by your job, your relationship, your family, your house, or whatever, take some time and join Sal and Dean on their escape across the New World and take a break from where you are. A must read for anyone trying to dig this country and where we came from. In the mean time visit me In The Congo. B.

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  • Chris Wilson

    “On the Road” is one of the greatest American novels of all time, but its prose style is intense. Readers unacquainted with Jack Kerouac will need to wade in slowly. This is such a brilliant American journey – and it’s an America that no longer really exists. Almost everything in “On the Road” is true (Kerouac based Sal upon himself). While this is a work of fiction, it’s also Kerouac’s diary of his travels across a 1950s American landscape. Unforgettable, if not haunting…..

  • Shark

    “On The Road” is great, but I think “Dharma Bums” is better.

    For me, it has more heart. If you haven’t read it, you should check it out.

  • Chris Wilson

    I agree about “The Dharma Bums.” In all, I suppose Kerouac has about 20 books – give or take – in print. I was a big Kerouac fan in college and read quite a few. Essential reading for Kerouac would include “On the Road,” “Dharma Bums,” and “The Subterraneans.” I also love Kerouac’s first novel, which predates “On the Road” a few years, “The Town and the City.” One of our greatest American authors.


    Pleased to see some one mention “The Town and the City”. Excellent novel. Kerouac indeed!