from my bookshelf: on the road by jack kerouac


on the road is the fictional account of author jack kerouac’s experiences driving across america with friends. frustrated with his unfulfilling life in new york city, kerouac travels through the united states via junky cars and greyhound buses with an eclectic group of friends. the book often feels like a photograph or a film; it describes the states kerouac visits with intense and memorable imagery. kerouac’s novel is well-known as a defining work of the post-world war ii beat generation, evidenced by the counterculture kerouac dives into; his friends expose him to the freeing sensation of rejecting mainstream society and untethering himself from material temptations.


“And this was really the way that my whole road experience began, and the things that were to come are too fantastic not to tell.”

‘I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that’s why it happened right there and then, that strange red afternoon.”

“The arty types were all over America, sucking up its blood.”

“The mountains, the magnificent Rockies that you can see to the west from any part of town, were ‘papier-mâché.’ The whole universe was crazy and cock-eyed and extremely strange.”

“I told them that I was thinking they were very amazing maniacs and that I had spent the whole night listening to them like a man watching the mechanism of  a watch that reached clear to the top of Berthoud Pass and yet was made with the smallest works of the most delicate watch in the world. They smiled. I pointed my finger at them and said ‘If you keep this up you’ll both go crazy, but let me know what happens as you go along.'”

“Central City is two miles high; at first you get drunk on the altitude, then you get tired, and there’s a fever in your soul.”

“Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk–real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.”

“And though Remi was having worklife problems and bad lovelife with a sharp-tongued woman, he at least had learned to laugh almost better than anyone in the world, and I saw all the fun we were going to have in Frisco.”

“He was out to get back everything he’d lost; there was no end to his loss; this thing would drag on forever.”

“I suddenly began to realize that everybody in America is a natural-born thief.”

“Here I was at the end of America–no more land–and now there was nowhere to go but back.”

“There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines and emptyheaded–at least that’s what I thought then.”

“A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.”

“Occasionally bums passed, Mexican mothers passed with children, and the prowl car came by and the cop got out to leak, but most of the time we were alone and mixing up our souls ever more and ever more till it would be terribly hard to say good-by.”

“I was going home in October. Everybody goes home in October.”

“Isn’t it true that you start your life a sweet child believing in everything under your father’s roof? Then comes the day of the Laodiceans, when you know you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, and with the visage of a gruesome grieving ghost you go shuddering through nightmare life.”

“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 (though we hate to admit it) in death. But who wants to die?”

“Lucille would never understand me because I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.”