On the Road is one of those books I read in college that has stuck in my soul ever since. There’s something about Jack Kerouac’s way of writing that gets my heart beating so fast. I loved the energy I loved the rhythm it had — it got me hooked on the Beatniks, that’s for sure!
I have more than a small obsession with Jack Kerouac. I have all of his books and I treasure them, often re-reading them and each time finding something new and eye-opening in their pages. On the Road was the first one I read, and then re-read when I was literally on the road taking my own journey across the country. Dharma Bums probably had the most profound effect on me, and I read Big Sur shortly after visiting that place for the first time. While living in San Francisco I found myself influenced by my surroundings and diving deeper into the psychedelic culture of the 60s– it was around that time I read The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, a manic tale about the bus called Furthur and the acid-fueled journey of Ken Kesey and a colorful troupe of companions (called the Merry Pranksters, with nicknames like Stark Naked and Gretchen Fetchen) including Neal Cassady-On the Road’s Dean Moriarty. I don’t know what it is that fascinates me so much about this time period, but there’s something about the spirit these people had that is so magnetic.
So when I found out there was a new documentary about this very trip, called Magic Trip, I was pretty much floored. I knew that the Pranksters had been filming a lot of what went on during their journey, with the hopes of making a film, but none of that footage had ever been seen. Until now.
I think what blew me away the most was seeing the footage of Neal Cassady talking nonstop, being his erratic, speed-driven self. He was, word for word, exactly as Jack Kerouac described him in On the Road. He painted the picture so clearly that I almost felt like I had seen this person before.
The journey starts at Ken Kesey’s Northern California home and follows the Pranksters and Furthur down Haight Street and across the country, with various antics and acid trips along the way, ending in New York with a stop at the World’s Fair and Timothy Leary’s home. Their destination, however, does not live up to the journey itself, which is where the true spirit and feelings of ultimate joy, freedom and peace are alive.
Jack Kerouac and the Grateful Dead (then called the Warlocks) also make appearances – what more could you possibly need?
I was completely captivated by the troubled beauty Stark Naked, who’s real name is Cathryn Casamo (pictured above with Neal Cassady, and below).
Mountain Girl and Jerry Garcia
Ken Kesey sitting on Furthur.
Timothy Leary and Neal Cassady.
Whether you’re into the sixties or not, this is a piece of history worth checking out!
“what is the feeling when you’re driving away from people, and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? -it’s the too huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. but we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
well we have come to the end of our first book club selection, jack kerouac’s on the road.
i’ve read the book several times, but this time i really took notice of the writing style. kerouac got a lot of criticism for his skill as a writer due to the fact that it was written in a creative burst over a span of a few weeks, in one continuous scroll. however, the content for the book was gathered from notebooks that he kept throughout the duration of his travels, and personally i think that the hurried, frantic nature of the text perfectly suits the subject matter. it captures the impulsiveness of the adventures that Kerouac and his friends embarked on and the freedom of being on the road without any real destination.
i leave you with this…
“our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. but no matter, the road is life.”
p.s. we’ll be picking the next book shortly, so stay tuned…
“what is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. but we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
what did you all think of part two of on the road? this section of the book finds sal (kerouac) back on the east coast settling in to a quiet contentedness with his girl and school and family, when a surprise visit from dean takes him on another wild cross-country journey. this trip’s scenery, traveling in dean’s car along with his girl Marylou and their friend ed dunkel, reminds me of my own road trip as they take the southern route across the country. they stop in new orleans to visit old bull lee (in reality, william s. burroughs), a heroin addict who brings out the madness of the intimate group. after new orleans, they continue moving on through texas, new mexico, arizona, and then into san francisco via the oakland bay bridge. this portion of the book is more about their journey on the road than what happens when they get there…which ends up not being much, as sal finds himself broke and homeless, wandering the streets in search of something he never finds. part two ends with him returning back east, unsure of whether or not he’ll ever see dean again. why do you think he went on this trip? and why do you think it ends on such a melancholy note?
have any of you ever taken a road trip? where did you start and where did you end up?
did everyone finish reading part one of on the road? what did you think? i love part one of the book because it really captures the feelings of freedom and independence as sal (kerouac) crosses the country for the first time. i was lucky enough to be able to take a road trip in the spring of 2008, starting in philadelphia and ending up in san francisco, and it was one of the best things i’ve ever done. after my trip i re-read on the road and found that i had a whole new appreciation for the book. certain passages now had a much more personal meaning for me, such as the part in chapter three where he describes waking up in a hotel room in des moines…
“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, and 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.”
share your thoughts on part one! was there a memorable quote for you?
good morning everyone…i am so excited to announce about the launch of the book club! we have chosen on the road by jack kerouac as the first book featured in the free people book club! this is one of my favorite books of all time, and I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say about it.
since we’re new at this, we’re just going to learn as we go…if you look to the list of categories on the right you’ll see we’ve created one for the book club. you will still be able to see the posts on the main page, but if you ever want to see only book club posts, click there.
here’s how it’s going to work: on the road is broken into three parts, so we’re going to give you all some time to read the first part and then we’ll start discussing! check back for a post – maybe in the form of a question, a highlight, not quite sure yet – on monday november 23 about part one of the book, and leave any comments you have in the comments section as you normally would. but make sure you don’t spoil the ending for anyone who might not be finished the book yet…