----------- soulful transformation through the stars. -----------

2 Oct 2011

on the road {book}

America had recently crawled out of the Great Depression and a World War II. The prevailing atmosphere amongst the young people was disillusionment. In just about every age and certainly in the post-ideology of great events, there arises a questioning that breeds in the discontented youth.

Questioning the status-quo is what eventually leads to change and action. Internal shifts first, and eventually social transformation. It's irrelevant whether the shifters are loved or loathed - they are a product of social events and internal grasping for revolution.

woe, woe unto those who think that the Beat Generation means crime, delinquency, immorality, amorality ... woe unto those who attack it on the grounds that they simply don’t understand history and the yearning of human souls ...

Before Elvis, before the Beatles, before the hippies, and all that these changed in the minds of young people and thereby society, there was the generation dubbed as Beat.

Beaten down and tired
but also  
connected to the primitive pulse.

Amongst the madness was a desperate need for stability, meaning, and love. Their thinking and their lifestyle - the mad circling of questioning and re-questioning - were the predecessors to sexual liberation, censorship liberation, respect for ecology and indigenous people, the anti-war movement, and liberation from the rule of the State.

The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death.
Kerouac, On the Road

the cover i own

On the Road is a book that pulsates with the undercurrent revolution. Kerouac didn't call himself a Beat writer nor did he fully connect with the Beat Generation. His works were Beat by default. It stemmed from living and breathing the same disillusionments and passions as his peers. Largely autobiographical, the book is a glimpse into that Lost Generation.

Kerouac had, after many years grappling with writing, uncovered his voice. The way I see it, he finally allowed himself to write the way he had lived.

As a style, Beat is stream-of-consciousness, passionate, raw, gritty, spontaneous, open-ended, and it bounces to the beat-bop rhythms of improvisational jazz. Likewise, this isn't a book of answers or a 'story' or neat endings. It's a pulse to an American generation that questioned and yearned like no one had done for a very long time.

20 years after the first reading that changed my life by pushing me out, onto the road, I was better able to appreciate it's layers. From, life experience, as a traveller, a bohemian, a questioner, a jazz fan, a mystic, a tireless walker of the authentic life.... I could connect to it's context as well as his voice.

Afraid that I would ruin a sentimental memory, instead I was thrust into first gear with it's passion, rawness, and intimacy, and the whole reading bounced and bopped for me.

What's your road, man?
Kerouac, On the Road

Check what others are thinking.


  1. I just picked this book up and can hardly wait to read it. You have a nice summary here and it just makes me that much more hungry for devouring it.

  2. going down to the cellar and finding this book now ( bought it a while ago from a charity shop... ) you have mentioned before and i feel i must read it soon!

  3. that has been on my mental reading list for awhile now, i need to finally do it!

  4. Awesome review Mon. I am totally enjoying this book so far and I think you described it perfectly!!!

  5. okay I just watched the video, W-O-W. Thanks for sharing it!

  6. I LOVE this book, and the hilariously weird thing is, I have had numerous copies of it, and they have all been lifted!!! I dont think I even have a copy anymore. :(
    I am so glad you wrote about this today! It brought a smile to my face! :)

  7. yeah MJ, listening to Jack read from his book brings in the music, the beat, doesn't it? pure bliss.

  8. this book has always been one of my favorites. each time i reread it my life seems to take on a pleasant glow, that's how vivid the imagery in it is. it just stays with you and makes everything seem new and interesting.

  9. This is a wonder fun post! I loved reading it, I love Kerouac. He lived life wide open. We can go back and think again on his words. ❤

    Thank you for sharing.

  10. A friend gave me this book when I was looking for 'something'. It filled my mind with ideas and lifted me out of myself. I love to hear about other people enjoying it as much as I did.

  11. This book is definitely the first on my list of books to borrow from the library - if I ever get my ass over there!

  12. I just purchased the book and I am looking forward to reading it and finding out his view of America at his time. I grew up in San Francisco in the fifties and sixties and many historical accounts of this country are very narrow in their scope. There were many movements that preceded the beat movement which changed the country and moved it in profound ways.

  13. After watching the video I have to say something, the jazz that Steve Allen is playing comes from a powerful movement, it comes out of a cultural movement, an African American movement, it is not just a back drop to the beat movement, it preceded that movement and affected that movement and even though I was a kid at that time, my uncle attended the university of San Francisco and he lived with us and very often our home was filled with students from various countries, some of them were what we called beatniks and hipsters. It was a cool movement and its roots are in the cultural movement that created Jazz.

  14. great voice! =) this is the side of it that i thought it would be, what i hoped i would find in "on the road." i think, though, that unless you recognize that *context* against which someone is struggling, questioning, yearning, all you see are burnouts and bums who don't take anything seriously. absent that context, it's word-jazz panhandling, an uninspired and uninspiring busker just looking for his next hit.

  15. Talibah, yes! absolutely. there are so many movements that changed the country and the world. and each helps the next do it's own thing.

  16. thanks for sharing the video. it had never occured to me to look for an interview or reading with him online. interesting to see him in person.

  17. I'm definitely not taking this one off my want-to-read list!

    That video is absolutely lovely ;-)

  18. I really appreciate your review. It's hard to think of the book in the post WWII terms, it's hard to separate it from current culture. As I said in my review, I can only see it from a culture that's already felt its effects. Looking at it from more of a catalyst standpoint helps it stand out.

    This is why I love being in a book club - to see others' opinions!

  19. Thanks for a different view! I love what you wrote here:

    "As a style, Beat is stream-of-consciousness, passionate, raw, gritty, spontaneous, open-ended, and it bounces to the beat-bop rhythms of improvisational jazz. Likewise, this isn't a book of answers or a 'story' or neat endings. It's a pulse to an American generation that questioned and yearned like no one had done for a very long time."

    I can definitely appreciate the "language" of the book, but I think I have to agree with what Charlotte said above about not being able to appreciate it from my own personal ignorant perspective. I'm so glad someone "got" it though!