“On the road” with Jack Kerouac and the beatniks

When in need of something reassuring, I always turn to classics for good old, solid reads. One book I have picked up recently is Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”

“On the Road” is the defining novel that embodied the freewheeling soul of the postwar Beats movement, a cultural movement that experimented with drugs, sexuality and traditions. It was truly liberating to be with Kerouac and friends as they wheeze down the many mad and carefree road trips through the vast lands of America.

“We flashed past the mysterious white signs in the night somewhere in New Jersey that say SOUTH (with an arrow) and WEST (with an arrow) and took the south one. New Orleans! It burned in our brains. From the dirty snows of ‘frosty fagtown New York,’ as Dean called it, all the way to the greeneries and river smells of old New Orleans at the washed-out bottom of America; then west. Ed was in the back seat; Marylou and Dean and I sat in front and had the warmest talk about the goodness and joy of life.”

Having read the book before I scooted off for a holiday, it turned out to be a wonderful pre-travel read to experience the erratic writing and exploding energies of Kerouac’s wanderlust experiences. Below are three of my favorite parts from the book:

“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.”


“Suddenly I found myself on Times Square. I had traveled eight thousand miles around the American continent and I was back on Times Square; and right in the middle of a rush hour, too, seeing with my innocent road-eyes the absolute madness and fantastic hoorair of New York with its millions and millions hustling forever for a buck among themselves, the mad dream – grabbing, taking, giving, sighing, dying, just so they could be buried in those awful cemetery cities beyond Long Island City. The high towers of the land – the other end of the land, the place where Paper America is born.”
“Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven. Naturally, now that I look back on it, this is only death: death will overtake us before heaven. 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 in death. But who wants to die?”

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10 thoughts on ““On the road” with Jack Kerouac and the beatniks

  1. I read this last year, and I can’t believe I missed that last quote about death. What an absolutely amazing piece of writing. Thank you so much for sharing, this one is getting written down!

  2. This is one of my favorite books. I just love the energy of Kerouc’s writing. It is constantly rushing forward as if he can’t contain all of his thoughts and observations, but must put them down on paper as quickly as he can; it is so infectious and full of life!

    1. That is one of the main reasons why I love reading Kerouac’s book. He’s just so antsy and ready to spring into action and that energy does rub off the reader.

    1. I gave my very dog eared copy to a close friend who went travelling in India with it and he handed it on to a fellow traveller, so i have this very fitting image of it in my mind travelling all around the world passed on from traveller to traveller, I think the Beats would have approved!

  3. I was reading the ebook version on my tablet when an email notification popped up with the subject “On The Road”. I believe it’s not coincidence. I live in Jakarta, Indonesia and am planning to backpack Java Island and cross the Bali strait to see the beach this coming December (don’t worry, it’s not winter here). My goal is to visit all 33 provinces which lay across thousand of islands of Indonesia. Wish me luck.

    “Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself.”

    “They were like the man with the dungeon stone and gloom, rising from the underground, the sordid hipsters of America, a new beat generation that I was slowly joining.”

    The reading traveller

    1. Hey there, it sure sounds like a sign that Kerouac is behind you on your traipsing around the beautiful islands of Indonesia. Good luck as you prepare to set off on your new adventures and stay safe on the road!

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