On The Road

On The Road

Paperback | December 28, 1976

byJack Kerouac

not yet rated|write a review
The classic novel of freedom and the search for authenticity that defined a generation

Inspired by Jack Kerouac's adventures with Neal Cassady, On the Road tells the story of two friends whose cross-country road trips are a quest for meaning and true experience. Written with a mixture of sad-eyed naivete and wild ambition and imbued with Kerouac's love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz, On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope, a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up.  

"An authentic work of art . . . the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as 'beat,' and whose principal avatar he is."
--Gilbert Millstein, The New York Times 

"On the Road has the kind of drive that blasts through to a large public. . . . What makes the novel really important, what gives it that drive is a genuine new, engaging and exciting prose style. . . . What keeps the book going is the power and beauty of the writing."
--Kenneth Rexroth, San Francisco Chronicle

"One of the finest novels of recent years. . . a highly euphoric and intensely readable story about a group of wandering young hedonists who cross the country in endless search of kicks."
--Leonard Feather, Downbeat 

Pricing and Purchase Info

$17.27 online
$23.00 list price (save 24%)
In stock online
Ships free on orders over $25
Prices may vary. why?
Please call ahead to confirm inventory.

On The Road

Paperback | December 28, 1976
In stock online Available in stores
$17.27 online $23.00 (save 24%)

From Our Editors

If you can't lose yourself in a literal road trip, then the next best thing is to take a virtual trip with this classic nomadic novel. Join the meandering Sal Paradise as he wanders around the United States, visiting friends, getting drunk and searching for the meaning of life through sex, drugs and jazz. But On the Road is more than j...

From the Publisher

The classic novel of freedom and the search for authenticity that defined a generationInspired by Jack Kerouac's adventures with Neal Cassady, On the Road tells the story of two friends whose cross-country road trips are a quest for meaning and true experience. Written with a mixture of sad-eyed naivete and wild ambition and imbued wit...

Jack Kerouac(1922-1969), the central figure of the Beat Generation, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922 and died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969. Among his many novels are On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and Visions of Cody.

other books by Jack Kerouac

On The Road: The Original Scroll: (penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
On The Road: The Original Scroll: (penguin Classics Del...

Paperback|Aug 26 2008

$18.44 online$24.00list price(save 23%)
The Dharma Bums
The Dharma Bums

Paperback|May 27 1971

$13.93 online$17.00list price(save 18%)
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks

Paperback|Nov 10 2009

$19.50 online$23.50list price(save 17%)
see all books by Jack Kerouac
Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8 × 5.8 × 0.6 inPublished:December 28, 1976Publisher:Penguin Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0140042598

ISBN - 13:9780140042597

Look for similar items by category:

Must Read Books

Customer Reviews of On The Road

Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Meh? This was ok, but I certainly don't see what all the hoopla's about. Maybe you had to be there?
Date published: 2016-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Classic A must-read where people can easily get sucked in to the story. The beat generation's way of writing may take some getting used to.
Date published: 2016-11-23
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A bit slow This book has a lot to offer, the characters are truly unique and crazy and their adventures can be quite entertaining however, there are times when reading this book felt very slow and drawn out. I would recommend giving it a try, it is worth the insight into a bygone era and a very different lifestyle than most people live today.
Date published: 2016-11-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Dated This seems pretty dated to me, in ways that other works from the this era don't, like Ellison's Invisible Man. Maybe you had to be there; perhaps his message resonated more in the 50s than in today's anything goes, internet age.
Date published: 2016-11-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from okay had a very hard time getting into this book. i couldnt finish it
Date published: 2016-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wild ride If you didn't read this in college, you should read it now. Let Kerouac take you back and forth from coast to coast with a steady stream of sex, booze, and jazz!
Date published: 2014-11-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Classic Roadtrip Story Best enjoyed during your own adventure, or underneath a cozy blanket at a cottage. Follow Kerouac's alter ego Sal across America and back again, while encountering various famous figures of the beat era.
Date published: 2014-11-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Putting it down for now I've always wanted to read this book as I am very interested in classic works, but after reading a thrilling action packed book series it was just a little slow for me. I shall pick it up again since I want to read it and admire the writing but at this moment I have to put it down.
Date published: 2014-06-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 90 mph at midnight Having read some of W.S. Burroughs and A. Ginsberg, i thought I better read some Kerouac as well. I am glad I did. When I was in the bookstore buying this, a nice old man told me about a quote about Kerouac’s “On The Road” by Truman Capote. Capote said of the work; “That’s not writing, it’s typing”, and with all due respect i disagree. While the form of the writing may be a blur, the vision is clear, a world through the bleary eyes of Sal Paradise. Sal has no use for women except for their company on the town or in the backseat and this is apparent by the way he rarely describes the women in the story. But the men get far deeper treatment, all given back stories involving Sal in the past, just like the way you would hear about your friend’s friend. There were chapters that were only 7 pages long, but covered 1500 miles of highway, most of which driven in the dead of night. After those 7 short pages, you are exhausted, like you were up driving that whole time. Kerouac has a way of making you feel you are on the road with him. Less emphasis on dramatic description and more focus on gut reaction. You grow with Sal on his journey, never sure if you like him or not, but always wondering if he will ever rid himself of Dean Moriarty. The beat movement was based in San Fransisco, but On the road happens before the city was ruined by peace and love drum circles and acid flashbacks. I can see why this has been labelled a “must read” but can also see why literary types might not enjoy it. The story deals less with where it is going, but more with how it is getting there.
Date published: 2011-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life, Travel, And The Road This is the kind of book you know you're going to like, before you Finnish the first page. Jack Karlovac does a great job of showing how much fun life can be when you are young and stupid. Traveling in a car across the United States and part of Mexico, doesn't hurt either. This book also shows how life can change as you get older, and not always for the better either. This book is lot like The sixties with jazz instead of rock, and short hair instead of long hair. But yet in some ways Maybe even more fun. If you like cars, traveling, Jazz, or life, Read this book. The sooner the better.
Date published: 2010-05-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Dean had gone mad again... A Review of On the Road by Jack Kerouac I was really thrilled to finally find an excuse to read ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac. It is such as standard reference to all thinks beat, “the Huckleberry Finn of the mid-twentieth century” (back matter). Kerouac effectively conveys a feeling of being restless in America and certainly pioneers in a new way the meaning of “road trip.” This is how it begins: “I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road” (1). There is a rhythm to Kerouac’s style that pushes through the text. I think it is an important book, a beacon of prose for much of what comes afterward. I can’t say for certain, but I suspect Kerouac’s inspiration comes from works including Black Boy by Richard Wright and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. Wright’s book is an autobiography of his escape from Jim Crow South, Ellison’s is also a journey across the racial divide dealing with the nature of bigotry. In contrast to their poignant and gut wrenching writings, Kerouac’s emphasis is more on the emotionally lifeless, the escape not from bigotry but from formless angst. This is one of the best literary passages I’ve ever come across: “Well, Sal, guess who’s coming to Denver?” I had no idea. “He’s on his way already, I got this news from my grapevine. Dean bought a car and is coming out to join you.” I had a vision of Dean, burning shuddering frightful Angel, palpitating toward me across the road, approaching like a cloud, with enormous speed, pursuing me like the Shrouded Traveler on the plain, bearing down on my. I saw his huge face over the plains with the mad, bony purpose and the gleaming eyes; I saw his wings; I saw his old jalopy chariot with thousands of sparking flames shooting out from it; I saw the path it burned over the road; it even made its own road and went over the corn, through cities, destroying bridges, drying rivers. It came like wrath to the West. I knew Dean had gone mad again… Everything was up, the jig and all. Behind him charred ruins smoked. He rushed westward over the groaning and awful continent again, and soon he would arrive. (259) In addition to the recommended books by Richard Wright, Hunter S. Thompson, and Tom Wolfe I would add Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man and Chuck Palahniuk, Lullaby and Joan Didion, Play It As It Lays.
Date published: 2008-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A nice surprise I started reading "On the road" because of the reputation of Jack Kerouac - an author that has been reputed as the icon who wrote this book that "shaped the generation turning 50". The whole story is divided into four parts: the various journey of Sal Paradise traveling between the East and West coast, and the portrayal of a special character named Dean Moriarty, a life that only lives for the moment and all its indulgences. Other than learning all about American geography and a generation of lost and indulgence, I witnessed a new writing style that gives a sense of urgency. When I read the words of "On the Road", I felt as if the character Sal Paradise was actually talking to me, with a level of excitement that I could not attempt to turn away. This book is a nice surprise.
Date published: 2008-01-20
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Garbage This book was the worst thing that i have ever read! it is actually an insult to people who read books. More so it is terrible for this book to be popular because there are so many other better authors out there is the world trying to make their way and this guy is out there insulting them all. This mans book is the reason why people hate reading and why movies are so much better!
Date published: 2007-10-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Pretentious and dull. Do you enjoy meaningless "poetic" musings such as "The landscape mystified my longing"? Then you will like this book. If, like me, you prefer something with a plot that makes SENSE, you will hate it. All of the characters are totally unlikeable, especially the women, who serve only as bodies and have no personality whatsoever.
Date published: 2006-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent This has to be one of the best novels of the twentieth century. You lose youself in the text and resuface a changed person. A must read.
Date published: 2005-07-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A True American Classic On the Road is Jack Kerouac’s masterful look at the 1940s America. In it we follow Salvatore Paradise, an aspiring writer, as he crisscrosses the country in search of adventure. Along the way he becomes acquainted with many interesting characters Dean Moriarty, crazed poster child of the Beat generation or Carlo Marx, the enigmatic philosopher. This novel not only acts as a picture post card of this magnificent era in American history but also as a testament to the human condition. Much like Dean Moriarty, it is hard for the reader not to dig everyone in this novel. It retells as tale as old as time in a modern setting and does it with such flair and enthusiasm that its hard not to jump for joy as Sal travels from New York to San Francisco to New Orleans to Mexico. Kerouac’s writing style seems as relaxed as some of his characters and some readers may have trouble with his prose, which seems to slosh from the pages in a great deluge. Don’t let it discourage you lest you miss out on this wonderful tale of life and all that makes it important. Kerouac weaves a masterful tapestry of human nature.
Date published: 2001-01-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Expand your mind... THIS BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE, and I guarantee it will affect you whether you enjoy it or not. Maybe you'll discover that you have no imagination and you can't deal with something different, and then you can go back to reading Stephen King and John Grisham. Just maybe you'll be completely blown away and suddenly realize that all the most interesting, open-minded people you've ever met PRAISE this book. If you're just a little curious why, well then don't wait 'til your almost dead to indulge that curiosity because you'll kick yourself. Briefly; This is a semi-autobiographical novel about Kerouac's travels across America in the 50's. It has no straightforward plot, no good-guys or bad-guys, no climax or anything you've been told a book should have. I find it a little depressing in someways, to me it speaks of the profound loneliness of life. But what you should get out of it is that life happens in movement, that you have to get up and go if you want to get anywhere. Maybe you think you already know that. Okay, well you just keep telling yourself that...
Date published: 2000-07-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fittingly Bad I found myself about fifty pages in saying, "What is this book getting at? Please get at it soon?". The Beat generation said the exact same thing about life. They were often bored and looking for more and I believe Kerouc intended to note this quality by writing his book boringly. Do not get discouraged by this, the book goes on to be a pusuit of happiness and self-awareness. A 'hope for the future' book.
Date published: 2000-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Amazing Journey Jack Kerouac stuns with "On The Road." It is a mind numbing journey through life as well as a physical journey through North America. As I am a huge fan of the Beat Generation authors, learning a little about the lives of these men was fantastic.
Date published: 1999-07-09

Extra Content

Read from the Book

part one1I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road. Before that I’d often dreamed of going West to see the country, always vaguely planning and never taking off. Dean is the perfect guy for the road because he actually was born on the road, when his parents were passing through Salt Lake City in 1926, in a jalopy, on their way to Los Angeles. First reports of him came to me through Chad King, who’d shown me a few letters from him written in a New Mexico reform school. I was tremendously interested in the letters because they so naively and sweetly asked Chad to teach him all about Nietzsche and all the wonderful intellectual things that Chad knew. At one point Carlo and I talked about the letters and wondered if we would ever meet the strange Dean Moriarty. This is all far back, when Dean was not the way he is today, when he was a young jailkid shrouded in mystery. Then news came that Dean was out of reform school and was coming to New York for the first time; also there was talk that he had just married a girl called Marylou.One day I was hanging around the campus and Chad and Tim Gray told me Dean was staying in a cold-water pad in East Harlem, the Spanish Harlem. Dean had arrived the night before, the first time in New York, with his beautiful little sharp chick Marylou; they got off the Greyhound bus at 50th Street and cut around the corner looking for a place to eat and went right in Hector’s, and since then Hector’s cafeteria has always been a big symbol of New York for Dean. They spent money on beautiful big glazed cakes and creampuffs.All this time Dean was telling Marylou things like this: “Now, darling, here we are in New York and although I haven’t quite told you everything that I was thinking about when we crossed Missouri and especially at the point when we passed the Boon ville reformatory which reminded me of my jail problem, it is absolutely necessary now to postpone all those leftover things concerning our personal lovethings and at once begin thinking of specific worklife plans . . .” and so on in the way that he had in those early days.I went to the cold-water flat with the boys, and Dean came to the door in his shorts. Marylou was jumping off the couch; Dean had dispatched the occupant of the apartment to the kitchen, probably to make coffee, while he proceeded with his love-problems, for to him sex was the one and only holy and important thing in life, although he had to sweat and curse to make a living and so on. You saw that in the way he stood bobbing his head, always looking down, nodding, like a young boxer to instructions, to make you think he was listening to every word, throwing in a thousand “Yeses” and “That’s rights.” My first impression of Dean was of a young Gene Autry—trim, thin-hipped, blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent—a sideburned hero of the snowy West. In fact he’d just been working on a ranch, Ed Wall’s in Colorado, before marrying Marylou and coming East. Marylou was a pretty blonde with immense ringlets of hair like a sea of golden tresses; she sat there on the edge of the couch with her hands hanging in her lap and her smoky blue country eyes fixed in a wide stare because she was in an evil gray New York pad that she’d heard about back West, and waiting like a longbodied emaciated Modigliani surrealist woman in a serious room. But, outside of being a sweet little girl, she was awfully dumb and capable of doing horrible things. That night we all drank beer and pulled wrists and talked till dawn, and in the morning, while we sat around dumbly smoking butts from ashtrays in the gray light of a gloomy day, Dean got up nervously, paced around, thinking, and decided the thing to do was to have Marylou make breakfast and sweep the floor. “In other words we’ve got to get on the ball, darling, what I’m saying, otherwise it’ll be fluctuating and lack of true knowledge or crystallization of our plans.” Then I went away.During the following week he confided in Chad King that he absolutely had to learn how to write from him; Chad said I was a writer and he should come to me for advice. Meanwhile Dean had gotten a job in a parking lot, had a fight with Marylou in their Hoboken apartment—God knows why they went there—and she was so mad and so down deep vindictive that she reported to the police some false trumped-up hysterical crazy charge, and Dean had to lam from Hoboken. So he had no place to live. He came right out to Paterson, New Jersey, where I was living with my aunt, and one night while I was studying there was a knock on the door, and there was Dean, bowing, shuffling obsequiously in the dark of the hall, and saying, “Hel-lo, you remember me—Dean Moriarty? I’ve come to ask you to show me how to write.”“And where’s Marylou?” I asked, and Dean said she’d apparently whored a few dollars together and gone back to Denver—“the whore!” So we went out to have a few beers because we couldn’t talk like we wanted to talk in front of my aunt, who sat in the living room reading her paper. She took one look at Dean and decided that he was a madman.In the bar I told Dean, “Hell, man, I know very well you didn’t come to me only to want to become a writer, and after all what do I really know about it except you’ve got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict.” And he said, “Yes, of course, I know exactly what you mean and in fact all those problems have occurred to me, but the thing that I want is the realization of those factors that should one depend on Schopenhauer’s dichotomy for any inwardly realized . . .” and so on in that way, things I understood not a bit and he himself didn’t. In those days he really didn’t know what he was talking about; that is to say, he was a young jailkid all hung-up on the wonderful possibilities of becoming a real intellectual, and he liked to talk in the tone and using the words, but in a jumbled way, that he had heard from “real intellectuals” —although, mind you, he wasn’t so naive as that in all other things, and it took, him just a few months with Carlo Marx to become completely in there with all the terms and jargon. Nonetheless we understood each other on other levels of madness, and I agreed that he could stay at my house till he found a job and furthermore we agreed to go out West sometime. That was the winter of 1947.One night when Dean ate supper at my house—he already had, the parking-lot job in New York—he leaned over my shoulder as I typed rapidly away and said, “Come on man, those girls won’t wait, make it fast.”I said, “Hold on just a minute, I’ll be right with you soon as I finish this chapter,” and it was one of the best chapters in the book. Then I dressed and off we flew to New York to meet some girls. As we rode in the bus in the weird phosphorescent void of the Lincoln Tunnel we leaned on each other with fingers waving and yelled and talked excitedly, and I was beginning to get the bug like Dean. He was simply a youth tremendously excited with life, and though he was a con-man, he was only conning because he wanted so much to live and to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no attention to him. He was conning me and I knew it (for room and board and “how-to-write,” etc.), and he knew I knew (this has been the basis of our relationship), but I didn’t care and we got along fine—no pestering, no catering; we tiptoed around each other like heartbreaking new friends. I began to learn from him as much as he probably learned from me. As far as my work was concerned he said, “Go ahead, everything you do is great.” He watched over my shoulder as I wrote stories, yelling, “Yes! That’s right! Wow! Man!” and “Phew!” and wiped his face with his handkerchief. “Man, wow, there’s so many things to do, so many things to write! How to even begin to get it all down and without modified restraints and all hung-up on like literary inhibitions and grammatical fears . . .”“That’s right, man, now you’re talking.” And a kind of holy lightning I saw flashing from his excitement and his visions, which he described so torrentially that people in buses looked around to see the “overexcited nut.” In the West he’d spent a third of his time in the poolhall, a third in jail, and a third in the public library. They’d seen him rushing eagerly down the winter streets, bareheaded, carrying books to the poolhall, or climbing trees to get into the attics of buddies where he spent days reading or hiding from the law.We went to New York—I forget what the situation was, two colored girls—there were no girls there; they were supposed to meet him in a diner and didn’t show up. We went to his parking lot where he had a few things to do—change his clothes in the shack in back and spruce up a bit in front of a cracked mirror and so on, and then we took off. And that was the night Dean met Carlo Marx. A tremendous thing happened when Dean met Carlo Marx. Two keen minds that they are, they took to each other at the drop of a hat. Two piercing eyes glanced into two piercing eyes—the holy con-man with the shining mind, and the sorrowful poetic con-man with the dark mind that is Carlo Marx. From that moment on I saw very little of Dean, and I was a little sorry too. Their energies met head-on, I was a lout compared, I couldn’t keep up with them. The whole mad swirl of everything that was to come began then; it would mix up all my friends and all I had left of my family in a big dust cloud over the American Night. Carlo told him of Old Bull Lee, Elmer Hassel, Jane: Lee in Texas growing weed, Hassel on Riker’s Island, Jane wandering on Times Square in a benzedrine hallucination, with her baby girl in her arms and ending up in Bellevue. And Dean told Carlo of unknown people in the West like Tommy Snark, the clubfooted poolhall rotation shark and cardplayer and queer saint. He told him of Roy Johnson, Big Ed Dunkel, his boyhood buddies, his street buddies, his innumerable girls and sex-parties and pornographic pictures, his heroes, heroines, adventures. They rushed down the street together, digging everything in the early way they had, which later became so much sadder and perceptive and blank. But then they danced down the streets like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because 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 thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!” What did they call such young people in Goethe’s Germany? Wanting dearly to learn how to write like Carlo, the first thing you know, Dean was attacking him with a great amorous soul such as only a con-man can have. “Now, Carlo, let me speak—here’s what I’m saying . . .”. I didn’t see them for about two weeks, during which time they cemented their relationship to fiendish allday-allnight talk proportions.Then came spring, the great time of traveling, and everybody in the scattered gang was getting ready to take one trip or another. I was busily at work on my novel and when I came to the halfway mark, after a trip down South with my aunt to visit my brother Rocco, I got ready to travel West for the very first time.Dean had already left. Carlo and I saw him off at the 34th Street Greyhound station. Upstairs they had a place where you could make pictures for a quarter. Carlo took off his glasses and looked sinister. Dean made a profile shot and looked coyly around. I took a straight picture that made me look like a thirty-year-old Italian who’d kill anybody who said anything against his mother. This picture Carlo and Dean neatly cut down the middle with a razor and saved a half each in their wallets. Dean was wearing a real Western business suit for his big trip back to Denver; he’d finished his first fling in New York. I say fling, but he only worked like a dog in parking lots. The most fantastic parking-lot attendant in the world, he can back a car forty miles an hour into a tight squeeze and stop at the wall, jump out, race among fenders, leap into another car, circle it fifty miles an hour in a narrow space, back swiftly into tight spot, hump, snap the car with the emergency so that you see it bounce as he flies out; then clear to the ticket shack, sprinting like a track star, hand a ticket, leap into a newly arrived car before the owner’s half out, leap literally under him as he steps out, start the car with the door flapping, and roar off to the next available spot, arc, pop in, brake, out, run; working like that without pause eight hours a night, evening rush hours and after-theater rush hours, in greasy wino pants with a frayed fur-lined jacket and beat shoes that flap. Now he’d bought a new suit to go back in; blue with pencil stripes, vest and all—eleven dollars on Third Avenue, with a watch and watch chain, and a portable typewriter with which he was going to start writing in a Denver rooming house as soon as he got a job there. We had a farewell meal of franks and beans in a Seventh Avenue Riker’s, and then Dean got on the bus that said Chicago and roared off into the night. There went our wrangler. I promised myself to go the same way when spring really bloomed and opened up the land.And this was really the way that my whole road experience began, and the things that were to come are too fantastic not to tell.Yes, and it wasn’t only because I was a writer and needed new experiences that I wanted to know Dean more, and because my life hanging around the campus had reached the completion of its cycle and was stultified, 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. His dirty workclothes clung to him so gracefully, as though you couldn’t buy a better fit from a custom tailor but only earn it from the Natural Tailor of Natural Joy, as Dean had, in his stresses. 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, nightmare 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 down 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.”A western kinsman of the sun, Dean. Although my aunt warned me that he would get me in trouble, I could hear a new call and see a new horizon, and believe it at my young age; and a little bit of trouble or even Dean’s eventual rejection of me as a buddy, putting me down, as he would later, on starving sidewalks and sickbeds—what did it matter? I was a young writer and I wanted to take off.Somewhere along the line I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything ; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.2In the month of July 1947, having saved about fifty dollars from old veteran benefits, I was ready to go to the West Coast. My friend Remi Boncœur had written me a letter from San Francisco, saying I should come and ship out with him on an around-the-world liner. He swore he could get me into the engine room. I wrote back and said I’d be satisfied with any old freighter so long as I could take a few long Pacific trips and come back with enough money to support myself in my aunt’s house while I finished my book. He said he had a shack in Mill City and I would have all the time in the world to write there while we went through the rigmarole of getting the ship. He was living with a girl called Lee Ann; he said she was a marvelous cook and everything would jump. Remi was an old prep-school friend, a Frenchman brought up in Paris and a really mad guy—I didn’t know how mad at this time. So he expected me to arrive in ten days. My aunt was all in accord with my trip to the West; she said it would do me good, I’d been working so hard all winter and staying in too much; she even didn’t complain when I told her I’d have to hitchhike some. All she wanted was for me to come back in one piece. So, leaving my big half-manuscript sitting on top of my desk, and folding back my comfortable home sheets for the last time one morning, I left with my canvas bag in which a few fundamental things were packed and took off for the Pacific Ocean with the fifty dollars in my pocket.I’d been poring over maps of the United States in Paterson for months, even reading books about the pioneers and savoring names like Platte and Cimarron and so on, and on the roadmap was one long red line called Route 6 that led from the tip of Cape Cod clear to Ely, Nevada, and there dipped down to Los Angeles. I’ll just stay on 6 all the way to Ely, I said to myself and confidently started. To get to 6 I had to go up to Bear Mountain. Filled with dreams of what I’d do in Chicago, in Denver, and then finally in San Fran, I took the Seventh Avenue subway to the end of the line at 242nd Street, and there took a trolley into Yonkers; in downtown Yonkers I transferred to an outgoing trolley and went to the city limits on the east bank of the Hudson River. If you drop a rose in the Hudson River at its mysterious source in the Adiron dacks, think of all the places it journeys by as it goes out to sea forever—think of that wonderful Hudson Valley. I started hitching up the thing. Five scattered rides took me to the desired Bear Mountain Bridge, where Route 6 arched in from New England. It began to rain in torrents when I was let off there. It was mountainous. Route 6 came over the river, wound around a traffic circle, and disappeared into the wilderness. Not only was there no traffic but the rain came down in buckets and I had no shelter. I had to run under some pines to take cover; this did no good; I began crying and swearing and socking myself on the head for being such a damn fool. I was forty miles north of New York; all the way up I’d been worried about the fact that on this, my big opening day, I was only moving north instead of the so-longed-for west. Now I was stuck on my northernmost hangup. I ran a quarter-mile to an abandoned cute English-style filling station and stood under the dripping eaves. High up over my head the great hairy Bear Mountain sent down thunderclaps that put the fear of God in me. All I could see were smoky trees and dismal wilderness rising to the skies. “What the hell am I doing up here?” I cursed, I cried for Chicago. “Even now they’re all having a big time, they’re doing this, I’m not there, when will I get there!”—and so on. Finally a car stopped at the empty filling station; the man and the two women in it wanted to study a map. I stepped right up and gestured in the rain; they consulted; I looked like a maniac, of course, with my hair all wet, my shoes sopping. My shoes, damn fool that I am, were Mexican huaraches, plantlike sieves not fit for the rainy night of America and the raw road night. But the people let me in and rode me north to Newburgh, which I accepted as a better alternative than being trapped in the Bear Mountain wilderness all night. “Besides,” said the man, “there’s no traffic passes through 6. If you want to go to Chicago you’d do better going across the Holland Tunnel in New York and head for Pittsburgh,” and I knew he was right. It was my dream that screwed up, the stupid hearthside idea that it would be wonderful to follow one great red line across America instead of trying various roads and routes.In Newburgh it had stopped raining. I walked down to the river, and I had to ride back to New York in a bus with a delegation of schoolteachers coming back from a weekend in the mountains—chatter-chatter blah-blah, and me swearing for all the time and the money I’d wasted, and telling myself, I wanted to go west and here I’ve been all day and into the night going up and down, north and south, like something that can’t get started. And I swore I’d be in Chicago tomorrow, and made sure of that, taking a bus to Chicago, spending most of my money, and didn’t give a damn, just as long as I’d be in Chicago tomorrow.3It was an ordinary bus trip with crying babies and hot sun, and countryfolk getting on at one Penn town after another, till we got on the plain of Ohio and really rolled, up by Ashtabula and straight across Indiana in the night. I arrived in Chi quite early in the morning, got a room in the Y, and went to bed with a very few dollars in my pocket. I dug Chicago after a good day’s sleep.The wind from Lake Michigan, bop at the Loop, long walks around South Halsted and North Clark, and one long walk after midnight into the jungles, where a cruising car followed me as a suspicious character. At this time, 1947, bop was going like mad all over America. The fellows at the Loop blew, but with a tired air, because bop was somewhere between its Charlie Parker Ornithology period and another period that began with Miles Davis. And as I sat there listening to that sound of the night which bop has come to represent for all of us, I thought of all my friends from one end of the country to the other and how they were really all in the same vast backyard doing something so frantic and rushing-about. And for the first time in my life, the following afternoon, I went into the West. It was a warm and beautiful day for hitchhiking. To get out of the impossible complexities of Chicago traffic I took a bus to Joliet, Illinois, went by the Joliet pen, stationed myself just outside town after a walk through its leafy rickety streets behind, and pointed my way. All the way from New York to Joliet by bus, and I had spent more than half my money.My first ride was a dynamite truck with a red flag, about thirty miles into great green Illinois, the truckdriver pointing out the place where Route 6, which we were on, intersects Route 66 before they both shoot west for incredible distances. Along about three in the afternoon, after an apple pie and ice cream in a roadside stand, a woman stopped for me in a little coupe. I had a twinge of hard joy as I ran after the car. But she was a middle-aged woman, actually the mother of sons my age, and wanted somebody to help her drive to Iowa. I was all for it. Iowa! Not so far from Denver, and once I got to Denver I could relax. She drove the first few hours, at one point insisted on visiting an old church somewhere, as if we were tourists, and then I took over the wheel and, though I’m not much of a driver, drove clear through the rest of Illinois to Davenport, Iowa, via Rock Island. And here for the first time in my life I saw my beloved Mississippi River, dry in the summer haze, low water, with its big rank smell that smells like the raw body of America itself because it washes it up. Rock Island—railroad tracks, shacks, small downtown section; and over the bridge to Davenport, same kind of town, all smelling of sawdust in the warm midwest sun. Here the lady had to go on to her Iowa hometown by another route, and I got out.The sun was going down. I walked, after a few cold beers, to the edge of town, and it was a long walk. All the men were driving home from work, wearing railroad hats, baseball hats, all kinds of hats, just like after work in any town anywhere. One of them gave me a ride up the hill and left me at a lonely crossroads on the edge of the prairie. It was beautiful there. The only cars that came by were farmer-cars; they gave me suspicious looks, they clanked along, the cows were coming home. Not a truck. A few cars zipped by. A hotrod kid came by with his scarf flying. The sun went all the way down and I was standing in the purple darkness. Now I was scared. There weren’t even any lights in the Iowa countryside; in a minute nobody would be able to see me. Luckily a man going back to Davenport gave me a lift downtown. But I was right where I started from.I went to sit in the bus station and think this over. I ate another apple pie and ice cream; that’s practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious and it was delicious, of course. I decided to gamble. I took a bus in downtown Davenport, after spending a half-hour watching a waitress in the bus-station café, and rode to the city limits, but this time near the gas stations. Here the big trucks roared, wham, and inside two minutes one of them cranked to a stop for me. I ran for it with my soul whoopeeing. And what a driver—a great big tough truckdriver with popping eyes and a hoarse raspy voice who just slammed and kicked at everything and got his rig under way and paid hardly any attention to me. So I could rest my tired soul a little, for one of the biggest troubles hitchhiking is having to talk to innumerable people, make them feel that they didn’t make a mistake picking you up, even entertain them almost, all of which is a great strain when you’re going all the way and don’t plan to sleep in hotels. The guy just yelled above the roar, and all I had to do was yell back, and we relaxed. And he balled that thing clear to Iowa City and yelled me the funniest stories about how he got around the law in every town that had an unfair speed limit, saying over and over again, “Them goddam cops can’t put no flies on my ass!” Just as we rolled into Iowa City he saw another truck coming behind us, and because he had to turn off at Iowa City he blinked his tail lights at the other guy and slowed down for me to jump out, which I did with my bag, and the other truck, acknowledging this exchange, stopped for me, and once again, in the twink of nothing, I was in another big high cab, all set to go hundreds of miles across the night, and was I happy! And the new truckdriver was as crazy as the other and yelled just as much, and all I had to do was lean back and roll on. Now I could see Denver looming ahead of me like the Promised Land, way out there beneath the stars, across the prairie of Iowa and the plains of Nebraska, and I could see the greater vision of San Francisco beyond, like jewels in the night. He balled the jack and told stories for a couple of hours, then, at a town in Iowa where years later Dean and I were stopped on suspicion in what looked like a stolen Cadillac, he slept a few hours in the seat. I slept too, and took one little walk along the lonely brick walls illuminated by one lamp, with the prairie brooding at the end of each little street and the smell of the corn like dew in the night.He woke up with a start at dawn. Off we roared, and an hour later the smoke of Des Moines appeared ahead over the green cornfields. He had to eat his breakfast now and wanted to take it easy, so I went right on into Des Moines, about four miles, hitching a ride with two boys from the University of Iowa; and it was strange sitting in their brand-new comfortable car and hearing them talk of exams as we zoomed smoothly into town. Now I wanted to sleep a whole day. So I went to the Y to get a room; they didn’t have any, and by instinct I wandered down to the railroad tracks—and there’re a lot of them in Des Moines—and wound up in a gloomy old Plains inn of a hotel by the locomotive roundhouse, and spent a long day sleeping on a big clean hard white bed with dirty remarks carved in the wall beside my pillow and the beat yellow windowshades pulled over the smoky scene of the railyards. I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was—I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I’d never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn’t know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn’t scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that’s why it happened right there and then, that strange red afternoon.

From Our Editors

If you can't lose yourself in a literal road trip, then the next best thing is to take a virtual trip with this classic nomadic novel. Join the meandering Sal Paradise as he wanders around the United States, visiting friends, getting drunk and searching for the meaning of life through sex, drugs and jazz. But On the Road is more than just an epic tale of one man's lifestyle. It takes readers on an incisive journey into the Beat Generation. Jack Kerouac's prose beats with the pulse of 1940s culture while revealing exactly what he wants - and doesn't want - about his own place in that society.

Editorial Reviews

"An authentic work of art . . . the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as 'beat,' and whose principal avatar he is."--Gilbert Millstein, The New York Times "On the Road has the kind of drive that blasts through to a large public. . . . What makes the novel really important, what gives it that drive is a genuine new, engaging and exciting prose style. . . . What keeps the book going is the power and beauty of the writing."--Kenneth Rexroth, San Francisco Chronicle"One of the finest novels of recent years. . . a highly euphoric and intensely readable story about a group of wandering young hedonists who cross the country in endless search of kicks."--Leonard Feather, Downbeat