… from On the Road while Steve Allen accompanies on jazz piano. Pricelessly weird.
Here’s the famous scroll manuscript that Kerouac discusses in the clip above:
And now, a few more representative passages from On the Road. Here’s the one everybody knows, from very early in the book just after the Sal the narrator (Kerouac) has met Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady):
because 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 and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
And here’s an infamous passage, from when Sal and Dean are in Denver:
At lilac evening I walked with every muscle aching . . . wishing I were a Negro, feeling that the best the white world had offered was not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, music . . .
About that passage James Baldwin later commented, ”I would hate to be in Kerouac’s shoes if he should ever be mad enough to read this aloud from the stage of Harlem’s Apollo Theatre.”
And finally, here’s one from near the end of the book as the road trip has entered Mexico:
Not like driving across Carolina, or Texas, or Arizona, or Illinois; but like driving across the world and into the places where we would finally learn ourselves among the Fellahin Indians of the world, the essential strain of the basic primitive, wailing humanity that stretches in a belt around the equatorial belly of the world from Malaya (the long fingernail of China) to India the great subcontinent to Arabia to Morocco to the selfsame deserts and jungles of Mexico and over the waves to Polynesia to mystic Siam of the Yellow Robe and on around, on around, so that you hear the same mournful wail by the rotted walls of Cadiz, Spain, that you hear 12,000 miles around in the depths of Benares the Capital of the World.
In these passages can be found the essence of Beat romanticism, that early spark of mass prosperity’s countercultural conflagration: the celebration of the spontaneous, the untamed, the transgressive, the marginal, the primitive.
That such sentiments came percolating to the surface in the 1950s is no coincidence. Affluence had now given people unprecedented freedom from material and social constraints. So it wasn’t surprising that some people started to embrace the idea of freedom from all constraints whatsoever — freedom of the uncaged id.