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It has occasionally been made available for public viewing, with the first 30 feet 9 m unrolled. Between and , the scroll was displayed in several museums and libraries in the United States, Ireland, and the UK. It was exhibited in Paris in the summer of to celebrate the movie based on the book.
The novel contains five parts, three of them describing road trips with Moriarty. The narrative takes place in the years to , is full of Americana , and marks a specific era in jazz history , "somewhere between its Charlie Parker Ornithology period and another period that began with Miles Davis.
Disheartened after a divorce, his life changes when he meets Dean Moriarty, who is "tremendously excited with life," and begins to long for the freedom of the road: "Somewhere along the line I knew there would be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.
After taking several buses and hitchhiking, he arrives in Denver, where he hooks up with Carlo Marx, Dean, and their friends. There are parties—among them an excursion to the ghost town of Central City. Remi arranges for Sal to take a job as a night watchman at a boarding camp for merchant sailors waiting for their ship. Not holding this job for long, Sal hits the road again. Soon he meets Terry, the "cutest little Mexican girl," on the bus to Los Angeles.
They stay together, traveling back to Bakersfield , then to Sabinal, "her hometown," where her family works in the fields.
Working in the cotton fields, Sal realizes that he is not made for this type of work. Leaving Terry behind, he takes the bus back to Times Square in New York City , bums a quarter off a preacher who looks the other way, and arrives at his aunt's house in Paterson, just missing Dean, who had come to see him, by two days.
Sal's Christmas plans are shattered as "now the bug was on me again, and the bug's name was Dean Moriarty. Dean wants Sal to make love to Marylou, but Sal declines. Both of them stay briefly in a hotel, but soon she moves out, following a nightclub owner. Sal is alone and on Market Street has visions of past lives, birth, and rebirth.
Dean finds him and invites him to stay with his family. Together, they visit nightclubs and listen to Slim Gaillard and other jazz musicians.
The stay ends on a sour note: "what I accomplished by coming to Frisco I don't know," and Sal departs, taking the bus back to New York. He is depressed and lonesome; none of his friends are around. After receiving some money, he leaves Denver for San Francisco to see Dean. Camille is pregnant and unhappy, and Dean has injured his thumb trying to hit Marylou for sleeping with other men.
Camille throws them out, and Sal invites Dean to come to New York, planning to travel further to Italy. They meet Galatea, who tells Dean off: "You have absolutely no regard for anybody but yourself and your kicks.
On the way to Sacramento they meet a "fag", who propositions them. Dean tries to hustle some money out of this but is turned down. In Denver a brief argument shows the growing rift between the two, when Dean reminds Sal of his age, Sal being the older of the two.
They get a Cadillac that needs to be brought to Chicago from a travel bureau. By bus they move on to Detroit and spend a night on Skid Row , Dean hoping to find his homeless father. They go on partying in New York, where Dean meets Inez and gets her pregnant while his wife is expecting their second child.
Part Four[ edit ] In the spring of , Sal gets the itch to travel again while Dean is working as a parking lot attendant in Manhattan, living with his girlfriend Inez. It was Nixon who killed real freedom, the freedom our long haired brethren from Berkeley and Frisco fought for.
That was something I knew. And I went on believing this, really knowing this, for a long time. That somewhere in our past was a truth that was squelched by oppressive forces like Nixon and Reagan and even Clinton and then Bush. The names of other old patriarchs who were stopping the future from coming. That all we needed was the future and the future promised to us years before by the long lost Counter-Culture of the s.
I knew all this, right up until I was watching CNN about three weeks ago. But it also talked about the hippies, and toward the end of that hour of television something happened that I started me un-knowing what I had known. Because it turns out that Jack Kerouac, in , went on William F.
Buckley's TV show and completely and unequivocally dis-owned the hippies. I was floored. Here was the hero whose foundation held up the Counter-Culture's house, on the show of an old-school white guy Republican ideologue, saying he wanted nothing to do with the hippies.
Just what in the heck? I, now a 30 year old Midwesterner with the Internet, checked out Wikipedia. Turns out old Jack Kerouac was a lifelong Catholic yes, even when writing the Dharma Bums , who painted portraits of the Pope and carried a rosary. He played football in High School and went to college on a football scholarship. This square was the guy who people flocked to to change the world?
This dude wearing jeans and a t-shirt and drinking a tall can of Budweiser? That article on Wikipedia was an eye-opener. Jack was also schizophrenic. Now, I am not going to ruin this book for you. I want to, I really do. But I bought the book and read it in maybe a week or so. Even now, a few hours after I put it down, I am floored and still collecting my thoughts. Kerouac is not who I thought he was. The entirety of our great, glorious past and our experiment in free love and peace isn't built on a lie, I've checked.
What it seems to be based on is the most misogynist and most disdainful and most self-absorbed and outright delusional reading of a book that had occurred in the entire Baby Boomer generation. Kerouac and his friends, all subjects of this book written in with their names changed, were deluded about their place in life, disdained the order that let them treat so many people so badly, and what they did to the women in their lives makes Don Draper and Roger Sterling look like Gloria Steinem's hard nosed instructors.
These men were monsters who used people like objects and had the utter gall to appropriate the name of the Beat, originally a term used to describe black people "beaten to their socks," and apply it to their own over-privileged selves. I hope that you read it when you are 30 like me, or maybe just when you are mature enough to understand that what is happening here isn't a great adventure but a total abdication.
I wish I had actually read this book in college. My father and I argued a lot when I was in school, when I knew he was so wrong and I was so knowing.
The truth about Jack Kerouac and his friends is that even their best qualities fail to exceed my father's worst. For all his many faults, he has never, ever treated any human on this earth the way Sal and Dean treated every single person that had the misfortune to be on the road to Sal and Dean's kicks.
Don't get me wrong, this book hasn't changed my political stripe. I'm not voting for Trump two years ago or two years from now. But Holy God, to think the young people who were going to "change the world" in my father's youth did so after reading this.
It makes sense to me now, sitting here, why the MeToo movement has ousted so many lefty men in Hollywood and the Senate, and even a lefty woman or two. I think, whether they read this book or not, they actually know what I knew until just earlier today.
I'm sorry, dad. On the Road has been interpreted, debated over and, ironically enough, turned into an engine of capitalism in the fifty some years since it was published. Sal is fascinated, almost obsessively, with Dean as soon as he meets him. To those who know him only casually, Dean seems like a conman.
He works and fudges his way towards enough money to sustain drinking, womanizing and, above all, traveling. All the while he leaves behind a string of heartbroken women and fatherless children across the US.
And yet this conman fascinates the more responsible Sal so much that he spends several years of his life following him around trying to understand how Dean seems to know the secret of life. And, according to the author, Dean really does know the secret, or better put, lack thereof. Dean simply lives life in the moment. More Eastern than Western he sees the life of work, marriage and responsibility as mostly an illusion to be fled from.
IT is simply this sense of living at its utmost that seems like such a banal insight unless expressed as lived in a person like Dean Moriarty. And this understanding of life comes with an understandable sadness since human life is always finite. Hence the dichotomy between Dean fully feeling IT and his often expressed melancholy. Regardless, the book is a deserved classic for espousing a way of life that people around the world aspire to attain.
One can condemn, belittle or otherwise reject this life but it rarely has been better sold. A must read for all who want to understand the type of life many modern people try to imitate. These stories of travel, searching, and exploration provide a window into mid-century Beat culture and have been read for decades. Kerouac's keen travel observations provide the present-day reader with insights into what the country was like two or three generations ago and some of the ways it differs from America today.
America seemed more free and wide-open in these pages, but the book is a reminder of how the encroachments of centralization and bureaucracy are on ongoing process--one of the characters in "On the Road" laments how much less free the country was at the book's mid-century vantage point than it was in the years before World War I.
Jazz was still wildly popular in America in the s, and Kerouac references it constantly in these pages.