“What matters about ‘On the Road’ is the book’s raw energy yoked to its sense of promise in ‘all that raw land,’ the shove it offers to get out of one’s own chair and see what lies over the horizon. . . . The book is a hymn to purposelessness, an antidote to what John Fowles once decried as our modern ‘addiction to finding a reason, a function, a quantifiable yield’ in everything we do.
“Above all, ‘On the Road’ matters for its music: its plaintive, restless hum. In it, Kerouac perfected a melancholy optimism and a yearning for solace a thousand times richer and subtler than the mournful sap that drips down from so many contemporary American films and novels. . . . This is the great, lasting appeal of ‘On the Road,’ the reason it will continue to matter to readers for another half-century and more.”
Matt Weiland, “You Don’t Know Jack,” The New York Times, August 19, 2007.
“I could hear Dean, blissful and blabbering and frantically rocking. Only a guy who’s spent five years in jail can go to such maniacal helpless extremes; beseeching at the portals of the soft source, mad with a completely physical realization of the origins of life-bliss; blindly seeking to return the way he came. This is the result of years looking at sexy pictures behind bars; looking at the legs and breasts of women in popular magazines; evaluating the hardness of the steel halls and the softness of the woman who is not there. Prison is where you promise yourself the right to live. Dean had never seen his mother’s face. Every new girl, every new wife, every new child was an addition to his bleak impoverishment. Where was his father? – old bum Dean Moriarty the Tinsmith, riding freights, working as a scullion in the railroad cookshacks, stumbling, down-crashing in wino alley nights, expiring on coal piles, dropping his yellowed teeth one by one in the gutters of the West. Dean had every right to die the sweet deaths of complete love of his Marylou. I didn’t want to interfere, I just wanted to follow.”
“In no time at all we were back on the main highway and that night I saw the entire state of Nebraska unroll before my eyes. A hundred and ten miles an hour straight through, an arrow road, sleeping towns, no traffic, and the Union Pacific streamliner falling behind us in the moonlight. I wasn’t frightened at all that night; it was perfectly legitimate to go 110 and talk and have all the Nebraska towns – Ogallala, Gothenburg, Kearney, Grand Island, Columbus – unreel with dreamlike rapidity as we roared ahead and talked. It was a magnificent car; it could hold the road like a boat holds on water. Gradual curves were its singing ease. ‘Ah, man, what a dreamboat,’ sighed Dean. ‘Think if you and I had a car like this what we could do. Do you know there’s a road that goes down Mexico and all the way to Panama? – and maybe all the way to the bottom of South America where the Indians are seven feet tall and eat cocaine on the mountainside? Yes! You and I, Sal, we’d dig the whole world with a car like this because, man, the road must eventually lead to the whole world.'”