Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Present at the Creation (2023)



Jack Kerouac Multimedia

Watch a video clip

of Jack Kerouac reading from On the Road on The Steve Allen Plymouth Show in 1959. (From Kerouac, a Film by John Antonelli © 1995 John Antonelli and Mystic Fire Video)


Hear Kerouac read from On the Road (Jazz of the Beat Generation). (From Jack Kerouac Reads On the Road © 1999 Rykodisc)


Listen to Kerouac read

from On the Road and Visions of Cody, accompanied on piano by Steve Allen on The Steve Allen Plymouth Show in 1959. (From The Jack Kerouac Collection © 1990 Rhino Records)


Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady Tapes

In the early 1950s, Jack Kerouac lived with Neal and Carolyn Cassady in northern California. Before Jack arrived, Neal had purchased a new tape recorder hoping he and Jack could send tapes back and forth to each other as an alternative to their frequent letter writing. Once Kerouac moved in, they would often amuse themselves recording their conversations or reading aloud to each other from various books. Cassady's widow, Carolyn, says the recorder was rolling all the time, but they could only afford a few reels of blank tape, so they would often record over earlier recordings. Of all the recordings they made, Carolyn Cassady retains only a 15-minute fragment. She told NPR's Renée Montagne the tape was recorded in 1952 at their home in San Jose. Selections from that fragment follow.

(Video) ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac 🇺🇸 BOOK REVIEW [CC]

Tape courtesy Carolyn Cassady


Listen to Kerouac read from his novel Dr. Sax. (Neal Cassady can be heard in the background, rooting Kerouac on.)


Hear Neal Cassady discuss their friend, the writer William Burroughs.


Kerouac's On the Road

Listen to Renée Montagne's report.

Explore Jack Kerouac multimedia resources.

Read excerpts from On the Road.

Listen to rare tapes of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady.

(Video) A Lecture on Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Jack Kerouac's On the Road

Sept. 9, 2002 -- The story couldn't help but give birth to a legend. Jack Kerouac, fueled by inspiration, coffee and Benzedrine, sat down at his typewriter and in one burst of creative energy wrote the novel that would make him the voice of his generation. The book was On the Road, completed -- from start to finish -- in only three weeks. And he used just one long, scrolled piece of paper, improvising endlessly, just like a jazz musician caught up in the excitement of spontaneous creation.

At least, that's how the story goes. Reality was, of course, a little different. Like the highly trained jazz musicians he was emulating, Kerouac actually spent a good deal of time preparing for that creative eruption. But when On the Road came out and his popularity exploded, all the groundwork got lost as people latched onto the myth.

For Morning Edition, Special Correspondent Renée Montagne gets to the bottom of Kerouac's famous novel. As part of Present at the Creation, NPR's ongoing series on the origins of cultural and artistic icons, she digs past the popular story to get into the inspiration, writing process, and public reaction that helped make On the Road a classic.

By the time fame crashed on his doorstep in 1957, Kerouac had already been done with On the Road for several years, but he hadn't found much early success getting someone to publish the book. It could have been that America wasn't ready for his stream-of-consciousness tale of jazz, sex, and fast, aimless driving on an open road. He would soon be a literary star, but on the eve of the book's publication, Kerouac actually had to borrow money for a bus ticket to New York from his girlfriend at the time, Joyce Johnson.

Johnson remembers walking down to the newsstand the morning that The New York Times reviewed On the Road. They opened up the paper to find a rave. Says Johnson, "Jack went to bed obscure and woke up famous."

The Times reviewer, Gilbert Millstein, wrote: "Just as, more than any other novel of the Twenties, The Sun Also Rises came to be regarded as the testament of the 'Lost Generation,' so it seems certain that On the Road will come to be known as that of the 'Beat Generation.'"

Not all the reviews were so positive, but the publicity gave Kerouac an almost instant injection of fame. Johnson recalls mobs around him at parties. "Women wanted him to make love to them and all the men wanted to fight him," she says. "People kept mixing him up with Neal Cassady." Unfortunately, he wasn't as prepared to deal with the onslaught of attention as his friend, on whom he based the magnetic character of Dean Moriarty, might have been.

Carolyn Cassady, the wife of Neal and hostess to Kerouac during the writing of On the Road, remembers her houseguest and friend as a much more sensitive, disciplined writer than most of his readers imagined. She says Kerouac was always on the lookout for material, which he would record in a tiny notebook until he slowed down enough to pull the fragments together.

"When he got somewhere where he could settle down for a few weeks or months he would write like crazy," Cassady remembers. He was "sort of a dynamo, but he'd been collecting the notes and things all the time he was roaming around."

Kerouac didn't like all the attention that was focused on the faster aspects of his life: the speed of his writing, the music he listened to, the overnight success. But the legend surrounding On the Road persisted in part because some of the story was true. Though the book didn't really emerge from his brain fully formed in those frantic three weeks of writing, he did type it up on a single scroll of paper, 120 feet long.

(Video) ON THE ROAD: Official Trailer

Jim Canary of Indiana University has spent a great deal of time with this document since the owner of the Indianapolis Colts purchased it last year for $2.4 million. "[Kerouac] wanted to be able to just go on uninterruptedly as much as possible," Canary explains. "And that seems to be what he's done. There are basically no paragraph marks to speak of. It just goes and goes and goes."

While the story about the method of its creation has fascinated readers, On the Road continues to affect audiences because of what Kerouac put into the novel. "Whatever you feel, that's the way jazz musicians do it," says Kerouac scholar Douglas Brinkley. However, he continues, "What Jack Kerouac also knew was that... people like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie were skilled, crafted musicians. This didn't just come out of a whim."

Kerouac, who died in 1969 at the age of 47, may have eventually been done in by his own creation. He turned to alcohol, in part to deal with the stresses of fame, and never recovered. Part of that fame was predicated on the notion that he was solely an antiestablishment writer, says Brinkley, who thinks this idea does a disservice to Kerouac's message.

"If you read On the Road, it's a valentine to the United States," he says. "All this is pure poetry for almost a boy's love for his country that's just gushing in its adjectives and descriptions. You know, Kerouac used to say, 'Anybody can make Paris holy, but I can make Topeka holy.'"

In Depth

Search for more NPR reports on Jack Kerouac.

Other Resources

• Visit the Literary Kicks site for articles on Kerouac and the Beat Generation.

• Read Gilbert Millstein's New York Times review of On the Road as well as other Kerouac reviews and articles in the newspaper.

• Read an interview with Carolyn Cassady, Neal Cassady's widow, in which she discusses On the Road.

• Read Kerouac's writing technique outline and his "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose."

(Video) On the Road by Jack Kerouac - Summary and Analysis

• Listen to more Kerouac in his own voice at the Kerouac Speaks site.

• Take Denver's Beat Poetry Driving Tour.

• Visit the Beat Page to read about Beat writers and see excerpts of their works.

• Review a variety of On the Road book covers from the United States and abroad.

• The American Museum of Beat Art offers a look at Beat Generation writers, poets and artists.

• Explore links to more Web sites about Kerouac and others in the Beat Generation.


Jack Kerouac Listening to Himself on the Radio, New York City, 1959
Photo: © John Cohen from There is No Eye: John Cohen Photographs, published by powerHouse Books, 2001. Courtesy of Deborah Bell, New York

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Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Present at the Creation (15)
Jack Kerouac reads from On the Road on The Steve Allen Plymouth Show in 1959.
Photo: Kerouac, a Film by John Antonelli © 1995 John Antonelli and Mystic Fire Video

Watch a video clip.


Kerouac typed the manuscript for On The Road on a continuous roll of paper. Twelve-foot- long sheets of tracing paper were taped together to make one continuous roll. The scroll is about 120 feet long.
Photo: Chip Grabow, NPR News

See a closer view.

(Video) On the Road by Jack Kerouac Book Review

Jack Kerouac's On the Road, Present at the Creation (16)
Neal Cassady, left, and Jack Kerouac on the cover of a recent edition of On the Road.
Cover used by permission of Viking Penguin, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.; Cover photo: Carolyn Cassady

Read excerpts.


(Clockwise) Poet Gregory Corso (back of head to camera), artist Larry Rivers and Jack Kerouac in New York City, 1959.
Photo: © John Cohen from There is No Eye: John Cohen Photographs, published by powerHouse Books, 2001. Courtesy of Deborah Bell, New York

View enlargement.

FAQs

What is the meaning of On the Road by Jack Kerouac? ›

DETAIL: Jack Kerouac's On the Road has become a classic text in American literary counterculture. Set in the aftermath of the Second World War, Sal Paradise's account of his travels across America has become emblematic of the struggle to retain the freedom of the American dream in a more sober historical moment.

What happens to Dean Moriarty at the end of On the Road? ›

He died in a car crash in 1955, two years before the book was published. Plus the character that Dean is based on, Neal Cassady (check out "Brain Snacks"), was an auto thief.

Who are the characters in On the Road? ›

On the Road

Who was the inspiration for the character Dean Moriarty in Kerouac's On the Road? ›

He was also the main inspiration forDean Moriarty the main character of Kerouac's seminal work On the Road. In the original manuscript, Moriarty was named Cassady, and although the name had been changed by publication, there is no doubt that Neal Cassady was the real Dean Moriarty.

What is the main message of On the Road? ›

The main themes in The Road are the challenges of survival, the importance of family, and father-son relationships. The challenges of survival: In the novel, McCarthy emphasizes the importance of not only bodily survival, but also the survival of human generosity and kindness.

What was one of the main themes of Kerouac's novel? ›

Freedom, Travel, and Wandering.

Why did Alex and Dean break up? ›

Vampires: Dream Date, Dean moves away to Ohio, so they grow apart and break up. However, he comes back in Journey to the Center of Mason and wants to get back with Alex, but she refuses, because she is still in love with Mason.

How does the relationship between Dean and Sal end? ›

Dean abandons Sal multiple times, including while Sal is feverishly ill in Mexico. And Sal ultimately abandons Dean at the end of the novel for his plans with Remi and Laura.

What happened to Neal Cassady? ›

Neal Cassady never lived to see 1969. He died sometime on the night of February 3/4, 1968, after attending a wedding party in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He imbibed the alcoholic beverage pulque at the wedding, which may have contributed to his death as he was taking the barbiturate Seconal that day.

Who is the antagonist in the road? ›

There is no one, single antagonist in The Road. Instead, the father and son are threatened by a myriad of dangers, including radiation, starvation, and illness.

What does the boy symbolize in the road? ›

The Boy represents kindness and innocence. The Boy symbolizes hope to the new world as well as holy figure in many ways. McCarthy often describes The Boy using religious symbols and language.

What is the setting of the road? ›

Two early details suggest that most of the novel takes place in the South. As The Man and The Boy travel south and east toward the coast, they stop at a plantation-style house. The Man imagines the slaves who probably worked there carrying drinks on silver trays (162.1).

Why is On the Road important? ›

Jack Kerouac's On the Road can be considered among the most important novels of the twentieth century. It holds a great deal of historical significance, showing an underbelly of American culture full of sex, drugs, and lost youth, a culture that received little public attention during the 1940s and '50s.

What does Dean Moriarty represent? ›

It is Dean Moriarty, in Jack Kerouac's On The Road, who represents the eternal flame of youth that was adopted by the rebellious youth culture of the Beat Generation.

Is On the Road based on a true story? ›

Share: The famous “Joan Anderson” letter from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac has been found in Southern California. Cassady apparently wrote the letter to Kerouac in a drug-fueled, sex-crazed haze on December 17, 1950.

What kind of story is on the road? ›

On the Road
AuthorJack Kerouac
GenreBeat, stream of consciousness
PublisherViking Press
Publication dateSeptember 5, 1957
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
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What does The Road represent in The Road? ›

As a unifying place for travel, the road is a place of both transience and danger, and in the novel it comes to symbolize the human drive to keep moving and keep surviving, no matter the circumstances.

What are some symbols in the book The Road? ›

The Road Symbols, Imagery, Allegory
  • The Road. Highways and interstates (and some minor roads) comprise the setting of this novel. ...
  • Coca-Cola. Early in the novel, The Man pries a Coke free from a drink machine. ...
  • The Serpents. When The Man comes down with a fever, he has some crazy dreams. ...
  • The Infant. ...
  • The Flarepistol. ...
  • The Trout.

How does on the road end? ›

The Wrap-Up

He would rather be with Dean, but Remi and his girlfriend don't like Dean, and in the end Sal drives off with his other friends, waving to Dean from the car window. That's about where the book ends.

When was the road written? ›

The Road is a 2006 post-apocalyptic novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy. The book details the grueling journey of a father and his young son over a period of several months across a landscape blasted by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed industrial civilization and almost all life.

Is on the road literary fiction? ›

On the Road Novel. On the Road is a 1957 novel by Jack Kerouac, an American writer. It is a roman à clef, meaning that while it primarily describes real people, their names are changed. The book is still considered fiction, but it is heavily drawn from Kerouac's life experiences.

How did Harper find out Alex was a wizard? ›

Harper's costume then gets mixed up with the charmed version because of Alex. During the contest, Harper begins to float. The wizard police are able to cover it up using ropes. Alex eventually decides to tell Harper that she is a wizard, and convinces her by taking her to space and giving her a cupcake in space.

Did Harper and Justin ever date? ›

She previously has an obvious crush on Justin (which was used for comedy on the show) that freaked Justin out. She would get jealous of every girl that he dated/had a crush on.
...
Harper Finkle
RomancesZeke Beakerman (boyfriend) Jeremy from Science (former crush) Justin Russo (former crush) Vlad (ex-boyfriend)
Production
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Why did Juliet turns old in Wizards of Waverly Place? ›

Vampires On Waverly Place, when Juliet goes without drinking blood she gets older in appearance. However, she returns to her younger state when she drinks it.

Why was Sal so enchanted by Dean? ›

Then Sal meets Dean; a wild, roguish character, and is so enchanted by him that he believes he can shape his own identity through being 'like' Dean. Hence, Sal takes to the road, planning to follow in Dean's footsteps.

What was Sal looking for in on the road? ›

Sal and his friends went in search of "IT." Kerouac guides the reader to the understanding that "IT" can be different for everyone. Sal began his search for "IT" because he was restless in ... Sal wanted answers so badly that he was willing to ask a complete stranger for them.

How old is Sal Paradise in On the Road? ›

Scrubbed from the film is any mention of Sal's age at the time (25) or his stint in the military before attending Columbia. However, the film doesn't balk at Luanne's age: characters make numerous references to “Dean's 16-year-old bride,” known in the book as Marylou.

Is Neal Cassidy still alive? ›

Who is Carlo Marx in on the road? ›

Tom Sturridge: Carlo Marx, Allen Ginsberg

Jump to: Photos (4)

Who is Dean in on the road? ›

Furthermore, Dean Winchester has many characteristics of On the Road's Dean Moriarty (Moriarty himself is based on Jack Kerouac's friend Neal Cassady). A fast-talking womanizer and con-man with classic good looks and tons of charm, Moriarty is the catalyst for the adventures in On the Road.

What type of hero is the father in the road? ›

The Man (The Father)

A survivor of the apocalyptic event and the protagonist of the story. The man is gentle and caring with his son, but prone to outbursts of anger or frustration. He is a survivalist, whose instincts have kept him and the boy alive on the road.

What does Ely represent in the road? ›

Ely then represents the state of humanity and the level of despair to which it has descended. The boy's kindness is the way in which he will rescue people from their current plight. Even though Ely denies the existence of God, there is the subtle suggestion that the boy might restore hope.

Why did the mother leave in the road? ›

While the man reacted to the decline and destruction of humanity with a dogged perseverance, the woman eventually gives in to despair. She believes that it is inevitable that she will be raped, murdered, and eaten, so she decides to escape that fate by committing suicide.

What does Coke symbolize in The Road? ›

Answer and Explanation: The can of Coke in The Road symbolizes how great the destruction has been to human civilization. When the father and the boy come across it, the boy does not know what it is, while the father remembers a world where these drinks were plentiful.

What does the Coca Cola represent in The Road? ›

McCarthy uses an iconic product to make connection to the old world's American capitalist way of life. This motif of Coca-Cola shows that the boy was born post-apocalypse but also how long approximately it has been since the world fell apart.

Does the man in The Road believe in God? ›

The Road is a fundamentally agnostic novel, meaning that some characters seem to believe in God and others seriously doubt God's existence. The protagonist of the novel flips back and forth on whether he believes in God. McCarthy himself doesn't really weigh in.

What is the conflict in The Road? ›

The Struggle for Survival: Conflict and Creativity

Conflict is a prominent theme in The Road. It is evident in the ashen landscape, in the bands of marauding men, in the disagreement between father and son about whether to help fellow survivors.

What point of view is The Road? ›

Third Person (Omniscient)

Third person omniscient narration allows McCarthy a good deal of freedom. He can rove from one character to another, to more objective descriptions of a setting, and to lyric descriptions no one but an author would think or write.

What are the themes of The Road? ›

Themes in The Road: Where Fiction and Science Meet
  • The End of the World: Extinction and Reemergence of Life.
  • The Struggle for Survival: Conflict and Creativity.
  • The Golden Rule: Selfishness and Altruism.
  • Nothing But the Truth: Honesty and Deception in a Complex World.
28 Mar 2007

Why is On the Road so important? ›

Jack Kerouac's On the Road can be considered among the most important novels of the twentieth century. It holds a great deal of historical significance, showing an underbelly of American culture full of sex, drugs, and lost youth, a culture that received little public attention during the 1940s and '50s.

Is On the Road based on a true story? ›

Share: The famous “Joan Anderson” letter from Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac has been found in Southern California. Cassady apparently wrote the letter to Kerouac in a drug-fueled, sex-crazed haze on December 17, 1950.

How does On the Road end? ›

The Wrap-Up

He would rather be with Dean, but Remi and his girlfriend don't like Dean, and in the end Sal drives off with his other friends, waving to Dean from the car window. That's about where the book ends.

How does the relationship between Dean and Sal end? ›

Dean abandons Sal multiple times, including while Sal is feverishly ill in Mexico. And Sal ultimately abandons Dean at the end of the novel for his plans with Remi and Laura.

What kind of story is On the Road? ›

On the Road
AuthorJack Kerouac
GenreBeat, stream of consciousness
PublisherViking Press
Publication dateSeptember 5, 1957
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
7 more rows

What is the plot of On the Road? ›

Plot Summary (3)

Shaken by the death of his father and discouraged by his stalled career, writer Sal Paradise goes on a road trip hoping for inspiration. While traveling, he is befriended by charismatic and fearless Dean Moriarty and Moriarty's free-spirited and seductive young wife, Marylou.

Who is the narrator of On the Road? ›

The narrator, Sal Paradise, starts to tell the story: he, with his "intellectual" friends, was a young writer in New York City in the winter of 1947, depressed and bored, when Dean Moriarty arrived in New York City.

Do ice roads really exist? ›

Ice roads are typically part of a winter road, but they can also be simple stand-alone structures, connecting two shorelines. Ice roads may be planned, built and maintained so as to remain safe and effective, and a number of guidelines have been published with information in these regards.

Where is the original On the Road scroll? ›

The scroll is held in the Lilly Library rare book collection at Indiana University in Bloomington, where Canary is a conservator.

Is Ridley Road based on real people? ›

Ridley Road portrays Soly, Nancy, and Ronnie Malinovsky as key members of the 62 Group, but the characters are fictional; a general composite of those involved in the real organization.

What happens to the father in The Road? ›

In the end, the father dies, having taken the son as far as he could and shaped him the best he could to both survive in that world, but also retain a sense of humanity--to be one of the good guys who are: "carrying the fire," as they state several times throughout the film.

What caused apocalypse in The Road? ›

There are many more reasons why a nuclear war is the most likely explanation for the apocalypse in The Road, but there's a reason why McCarthy kept it ambiguous. The Road isn't about that. It's about a man and his son fighting not only to survive in a hostile environment, but to preserve their morality.

What happened to the boy's mother in The Road? ›

The boy's mother, pregnant with him at the time of the disaster, died by suicide some time before. Realizing they cannot survive the winter in more northern latitudes, the father takes the boy south along interstate highways towards the sea, carrying their meager possessions in their knapsacks and a supermarket cart.

Why was Sal so enchanted by Dean? ›

Then Sal meets Dean; a wild, roguish character, and is so enchanted by him that he believes he can shape his own identity through being 'like' Dean. Hence, Sal takes to the road, planning to follow in Dean's footsteps.

What was Sal looking for in on the road? ›

Sal and his friends went in search of "IT." Kerouac guides the reader to the understanding that "IT" can be different for everyone. Sal began his search for "IT" because he was restless in ... Sal wanted answers so badly that he was willing to ask a complete stranger for them.

How old is Sal Paradise in On the Road? ›

Scrubbed from the film is any mention of Sal's age at the time (25) or his stint in the military before attending Columbia. However, the film doesn't balk at Luanne's age: characters make numerous references to “Dean's 16-year-old bride,” known in the book as Marylou.

Videos

1. Russell Brand On The Road | (2007) | BBC Four
(The Russell Brand Show Archive)
2. Jack Kerouac: Life On The Road
(Biographics)
3. Daughter Reveals The Real 1950s Icon Neal Cassady - On The Road Model Characher
(David Hoffman)
4. Jack Kerouac - His Writing Techniques - Top 3 of 30
(VelocityWriting - The Writing Life)
5. Neal Cassady & Jack Kerouac Documentary
(Manlio Santini)
6. Text and Context Analysis
(zoe sadokierski)
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