Road Novels 1957–1960: On the Road / The Dharma Bums / The Subterraneans / Tristessa / Lonesome Traveler / Journal Selections

Road Novels 1957–1960: On the Road / The Dharma Bums / The Subterraneans / Tristessa / Lonesome Traveler / Journal Selections

by Jack Kerouac

The raucous, exuberant, often wildly funny account of a journey through America and Mexico, Jack Kerouacs On the Road instantly defined a generation on its publication in 1957: it was, in the words of a New York Times reviewer, the clearest and most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as beat.

Written in the mode of ecstatic improvisation that Allen Ginsberg described as spontaneous bop prosody, Kerouacs novel remains electrifying in its thirst for experience and its defiant rebuke of American conformity.In his portrayal of the fervent relationship between the writer Sal Paradise and his outrageous, exasperating, and inimitable friend Dean Moriarty, Kerouac created one of the great friendships in American literature; and his rendering of the cities and highways and wildernesses that his characters restly explore are a hallucinatory travelogue of a nation he both mourns and celebrates.

Now, The Library of America collects On the Road together with four other autobiographical road books published during a remarkable four-year period.The Dharma Bums (1958), at once an exploration of Buddhist spirituality and an account of the Bay Area poetry scene, is notable for its thinly veiled portraits of Kerouacs acquaintances, including Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Kenneth Rexroth.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 4.14
  • Pages: 864
  • Publish Date: September 1st 2007 by Library of America
  • Isbn10: 1598530127
  • Isbn13: 9781598530124

What People Think about "Road Novels 1957–1960: On the Road / The Dharma Bums / The Subterraneans / Tristessa / Lonesome Traveler / Journal Selections"

I remember thinking the travel essays collected as Lonesome Traveler to be the finest prose Kerouac ever wrote. I think it sad that Allen Ginsberg would state, as he once did, that The Dharma Bums was Kerouac's best novel. I think it maybe the best of Kerouac, as good as On the Road.

I had always felt a bit of hesitation about reading On The Road because I thought it was about debauchery and drugs and recklessness. Of course, when I initially tried to take OTR out of my local library, I couldn't find it and took out The Dharma Bums instead...and absolutely loved it. What I did like about the book was the portrait of America captured within.

I'd already read On the Road several times, and Dharma Bums once a few years ago, but read them both again, and it strikes me that Kerouac's work gets better with the re-reading: I find the "spontaneous bop prosody" (or whatever Ginsberg referred to it as) difficult to read at times, I find myself getting lost in it, and losing the sense of it, and eventually sitting there thinking: this is ridiculous, we're talking about a tree.

Anyway the collection is worth reading for completeness. I think Kerouac's 'stream-of-consciousness' writing is more accessible than James Joyce's, but of course each writer is unique.

Read The Dharma Bums (and Visions of Gerard) long ago in high school.

The Library of America aptly commemorated the event with its volume of Kerouac's "Road Novels" -- the first of four collections in the LOA of Kerouac's writings. This volume includes four Kerouac novels, a collection of essays called "Lonesome Traveler", and selections from Kerouac's journals. ("That's not writing -- its typing!" as Truman Capote scornfully, and unfairly, said of "The Subterraneans".) Kerouac was a descriptive writer who could spend pages on detailed portrayals of places and people -- as in the scenes of mountain climbing in "The Dharma Bums" and in the description of Tristessa's living quarters in the novel of that name. In rereading the Kerouac in this volume, I found that "On the Road" remains his most impressive work and a book that should keep Kerouac's place in American literature. For all the attraction Moriarty/Cassady held for Kerouac, "On the Road" can be read as a critique of his wildness and as a search for a life that is full and rich, but also settled. The book is set in San Francisco (the relationship on which it is based took place in New York City) and it features descriptions of bohemian life in San Francisco, and an astonishing passage related by Mardou in which she finds herself wandering naked over the streets of San Francisco. "The Dharma Bums" differs from the other books in this collection in that Kerouac wrote it on commission from his publisher after the success of "On the Road." It is written in a much more accessible, popular style than either "Tristessa" or "The Subterraneans" and might be the best book after "On the Road" for the reader new to Kerouac. This book tells of the friendship between Kerouac and the poet Gary Snyder, as they climb mountains, discuss Buddhism, wander cross-country, and have wild parties. Many of these essays cover places and events that Kerouac describes in his novels, but they have a force and continuity of their own in their portrayal of rooming houses in San Francisco, pierfront dives, and work on the railroad.

With the classic "On the Road" are added 4 other books and some journal writings.