Shorter On the Road

I just finished reading/skimming Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Here’s my summary/paraphrase of the book. When I list items in {curly braces}, pick one of the listed items.

Spoilers here.

Content warning for mention of sex with underage girls.

I had no money. I decided to go to {Denver, San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, Mexico City}. I {hitch-hiked, drove a travel-bureau car, took the bus}. The people I traveled with were poor and wonderful and wise and beautiful. I met a girl en route and wanted to have sex with her but {I couldn’t get up the nerve to ask her, she declined}.

When I reached my destination, I met up with Neal Cassady (who I will call Dean Moriarty at my publisher’s insistence) and a bunch of our friends. (The friends were all twentysomething white guys, except for William S. Burroughs, who was older and addicted to heroin.) We stayed with one of the friends. That friend’s {girlfriend, wife, mother, other female relative} made us lots of food. We had a big party every night. We all got very drunk and went from one bar to another, drinking more. We met strangers who loved us and drank with us. Everyone had a great time.

Dean had lots of sex, mostly with women but implicitly with various men as well.

Dean stole a car. He drove it incredibly fast and incredibly wildly. We stopped for gas and stole a tank of gas and some food. That was pretty cool of us. You definitely shouldn’t think at all about the people we stole from, most of whom were running small family businesses.

Dean talked a lot about Time, and “It,” and understanding life. What he said didn’t make much sense, but everyone loved him.

We hung out with {Mexican, Negro} people. They were poor and wonderful and wise and beautiful. If only I could trade places with them and live their mysterious and wise lives!

We listened to some amazing jazz, played by a wise Negro who knew everything about life. Dean listened to it intensely, nodding along and making comments about how wise it was.

We smoked some “tea,” which is to say marijuana. It didn’t have much effect on us other than making everything even better than it already was.

We searched for Dean’s father, whose absence is probably a metaphor for missing father figures in midcentury America, which is probably why we were all so aimless.

I tried having a job for a little while, but I wasn’t very good at it and eventually gave up and left.

Some of our {friends, family members} settled down and got married and had kids and got boring and didn’t want anything to do with Dean anymore. Then they {threw away, didn’t throw away} their settled lives and {joined, didn’t join} us on the road.

We met a girl. She was {age from 13 to 18}. She was the most beautiful girl in the world. {Dean, I} fell madly in love with her and {slept with her, didn’t sleep with her}. {Dean married her, I thought about marrying her}. Later, we left town and left her. She {was, wasn’t} pregnant.

Repeat the above sequence for 300 pages.

3 Responses to “Shorter On the Road”

  1. Todd Kopriva

    I prefer your summary to the original.

  2. KTO

    One wonders whether you will do similar with other seminal works. It would surely be a great service to overburdened readers everywhere.

    • Jed

      Fortunately for me, few if any of those other books are on my unread-books shelf, so I don’t feel an obligation to read them. 🙂

      …But thank you for reminding me that I had intended to include the word “seminal” in this post. It really seems perfect for this book.


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