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Definition: On the Road from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Novel 1957 by US writer Jack Kerouac. A lyrical, freewheeling, picaresque account of his real-life adventures with Neal Cassady (1920–1968); written with the jazz rhythms of ‘spontaneous bop prosody’, it became the bible of the Beat Generation.

Summary Article: On the Road
From Brewer's Curious Titles

A novel (1957) by Jack Kerouac (1922-69), based on several wild trips across the United States with Neal Cassady (1926-68). In it he used the term Beat Generation ‘ to describe guys who run around the country in cars looking for odd jobs, girlfriends, and kicks’. The book became the prose manifesto of the culture it evokes. Crossing media, it also helped to define the genre of the ‘ road movie’, in which the characters take to the road as an escape from something, and/or as a means of self-discovery. Male bonding between ‘ buddies’ was a common element in such classics as Easy Rider (1969), at least until such feminist versions of the genre as Thelma andLouise (1991).

© Cassell 2002

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