Sal Paradise, a young innocent, joins his hero Dean Moriarty, a traveller and mystic, the living epitome of beat, on a breathless, exuberant ride back and forth across the United States. Their hedonistic search for release or fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz becomes an exploration of personal freedom, a test of the limits of the American dream.
A brilliant blend of fiction and autobiography, Jack Kerouac's exhilarating novel swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, racing towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and autobiographical passion. One of the most influential and important novels of the 20th century, On the Road is the book that launched the beat generation and remains the bible of that literary movement.
©1957 Jack Keourac (P)2015 Audible, Inc
Maybe I missed the point of this entirely and there were some beautiful thoughts and moments, some of which will stick with me but really this was just an endless dull tale.
It was really a long ramble which could end with an apologetic 'guess you had to be there' as we follow Sal (Kerouac) on his journeys frequently in search of or joined by Dean (Cassady) this, for me, was unfortunate because I could not stand Dean, he came across as terrible human being in whom Sal is completely disillusioned. I much preferred the cameos from other beats but was instead dragged along with Sal and Dean.
As I said I may be missing the point entirely but the discovery of self was really just a glorified bumming across the country avoiding any sense of responsibility and that got tiring quickly, this is the most effort I've experienced in trying to finish a book in a long long time.
Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.
I have long meant to read this book but I had resisted in case it didn't live up to its legendary status. In the end, I think it was the fact that Matt Dillon was to narrate it that persuaded me to take the plunge. I now feel vindicated on two scores; first, the legend is alive and well and, secondly, Dillon was a terrific narrator.
There's no point spending too much time on the plot. The listener needs to experience it with Sal Paradise, with the words blowing through your mind like wind through your hair and the drug of sex and excitement invading your imagination like the drugs that invade Sal's system. It is the seminal "Road" tale populated with huge characters like Dean Moriarty and Marylou, his "little sharp chick", the Frenchman poet, Remi, Carlo Marx (poet and adulterer), Montana Slim and "Big Ed" Dunkel. Sal, it seems, is a metaphor for Kerouac and you can trace the rest of the characters through the many reminiscences written about this work by the characters themselves. But, in my opinion, the story is not the main thing. It's the living of it that makes it eternal. I found it a bit like looking back on a fond, but now past, phase of my life (not that my was ever as eventful as Sal's). It has that intimate feel of your own personal memories. I wrote a lot of notes about it to write this review, but most of them are just not important enough to mention, although they seemed important at the time. Again, these are like the events in the book.
Returning to Dillon, really there is not much to say. He captures the book's racy sexuality, the atmosphere of a jazz age and and a youth that was looking for something that is too elusive to capture. There were times when he brought to mind Springsteen ("Lost in the Flood", "Backstreets") and at other times Van Morrison ("Coney Island"). Musical and noisy.
I enjoyed this journey.
Every time listen to this book I hear something new in it. Some new rhythm, some new character, some forgotten tenderness.
The prose is sublime, like when Paradise is creating an image in his head of Dean's drunken hobo father, "...falling down in drunken alley nights, dropping his yellowed teeth one by one into the gutters of the west,..". This is Saul Bellow and Steinbeck rolled into one irresistible rhythmic highway that rolls back and forth across a great jazz-bop, marijuana fuelled continental dream, from Long Island to Los Angelus in a country that has largely disappeared, and largely stayed the same.
Too many to mention.
When Dean is being isolated and exposed as a fraud and a conman. One is compelled to feel for him, to forgive him, to pull his unpacked case into the car and head for the next horizon.
The narration by Matt Dillon is the finest I have heard for any book. He is obviously a fan of the book. To none-American ears sometimes American accented narration can take a bit of getting used to. Not so with Dillon, a remarkable piece of work.
"On a role...."
In its first, and true draft, Kerouac typed directly on a single continuous roll of paper - a preternatural, crystal clear stream, tic-tac'd on a typewriter. A monotone delivery is pitch perfect and here is what we get in this performance of one of the 'landmark' skid novels of the twentieth century. For me it will always be the 'Birth of the Cool' in written form and transposes neatly in time, place and temperament with the sounds of Miles Davis. The combination of mental, physical, and emotional traits of a person, his natural predisposition, his fears, his motivations, what makes him laugh and where he chooses to dispose of the instinctual energies and desires that are derived from the id. Daddy-oh. A feeling, a place, a time, relax, forget, remember and then let it go....
Yes. It gets better with age.
The Dharma Bums - J.K.
I have had often been dissapointed by american narrators, not so in this case. Dillon is perfectly pitched for this.
Yes i laughed out loud. But this time around, having read the book at 15 , 25 years ago, i could relate to the book from personal experience. I enjoyed the book very much at 15, and "got it"...but realise much went over my head, especialy the sadness of dysfunctional relationships. At 15, i was excited by the drugs, in awe of DM ( since then i have known a few types like DM, recognise their attraction but see the negativity and vamparism in them too), the sexual liasons and all night sessions in jazz dens. i enjoyed them this time around too, but especially enjoyed the bucholic descriptions of the urban and wild landscapes...something i was less sensitive to first time around. I put off buying the audio for months , suspecting i would find the novel childish, im a european through and through... i traveled throughout the USA by car in 2000...in sum it is a frighteningly banal place, for me, even its glorious natural wilderness's (whats left of them), could not redeem the USA. this book was wrtitten half a century ago...a pivotal point. it is as fresh and profound as anything else of the genre, the ultimate beat book.
A difficult book to express, perfectly rendered - well done Mr Dillon. One of the very best readings I've heard.
Loved the contemporary feel of a story set in late forties/early fifties, and the sizzlingly brilliant writing. Loathed the abusive relationships with women depicted in such a matter of fact and helpless manner.
Matt Dillon's narration was very poor except with dialogue. All other sentences were churned out too quickly, as if bored and with the same down turn in tone at the end of the sentence regardless of context.
A brilliant performance by Matt Damon takes the listener right into the heart of Kerouac's cool ramble of a book. I was immersed in fifties America, on the back of pickup trucks and in the seediest hotel rooms, in love and isolated, life through the dark glass of a poetic mind. Great writing, great performance.
"Classic book -- shame about the reading"
5 stars for the book but Matt Dillon's reading is done in a gruff monotone. This is a very long reading, and after a while it becomes difficult to listen to because of his delivery. Worthwhile but flawed.
"off the road"
A good companion to anyone enjoying their travels, and like the best times travelling - the best bits are the parts you don't expect.
"What a book should be...."
After reading the book four times it was time to listen, beautifully read, thank you!
"Ashamed not to have read this classic before now."
Wonderful travel adventure across US. Dean is centre stage antihero. Looking forward to retracing some of the steps. the jazz night in Chicago stands out.
"Read this book and explode across the stars"
This is one of the few books I've read more than once. I read it at 18, and I wanted to be Jack Kerouac. I read it at 25 and I wanted to pack my job in, buy an old banger and drive across Europe. I read it at 30, along with the rest of Kerouac's work, and felt sad that Kerouac had written so little and died so young. But it still made me want to hit the road in search of adventure.
I just listened to it again (I'm in my late 30s now), and the magic, turned up by Matt Dillon's pitch perfect narration, is still there. I simply cannot read or listen to this book, now or ever, and not find myself charged with a sense of adventure, of the sheer endless scope of the possible, of the tragedy of all the people and things in the world that I will never meet and see.
It also contains my single favourite passage of prose, ever: "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".
Don't yawn. Don't be commonplace. Listen to this book and burn, burn, burn!
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