On the Road

  • by Jack Kerouac
  • Narrated by John Ventimiglia
  • 12 hrs and 46 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Here is the legendary 1951 "scroll" draft of On the Road, word for word as Jack Kerouac originally composed it. Though Kerouac began thinking about the novel that was to become On the Road as early as 1947, it was not until three weeks in April 1951, in an apartment on West 20th Street in Manhattan, that he wrote the first full draft that was satisfactory to him. Typed out as one long, single-spaced paragraph on eight long sheets of tracing paper that he later taped together to form a 120-foot scroll, this document is among the most significant, celebrated, and provocative artifacts in contemporary American literary history. It represents the first full expression of Kerouac's revolutionary aesthetic, the identifiable point at which his thematic vision and narrative voice came together in a sustained burst of creative energy. It was not until more than six years later, and after several new drafts, that Viking published, in 1957, the novel known to us today. The differences between the two versions are principally ones of significant detail and altered emphasis. The scroll is slightly longer and has a heightened linguistic virtuosity and a more sexually frenetic tone. It also uses the real names of Kerouac's friends instead of the fictional names he later invented for them. This audio edition is narrated by actor John Ventimiglia, best known for his portrayal of restaurant owner Artie Bucco in The Sopranos.

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What the Critics Say

"It is a dazzling piece of writing for all of its rough edges, and, stripped of affectations...it seems much more immediate and even contemporary....The novel that On the Road became was inarguably the book that young people needed in 1957, but the sparse and unassuming scroll is the living version for our time." (The New York Times)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Stellar, if you know what you're getting into

A delightful listen. Many reviewers here apparently did not know what they were listening to. This is not "On the Road"; this is an early version of that novel, much more stream-of-conscious and meandering, as typed on a single scroll with little sleep and many stimulants. The narrative structure of the originally published version seems a little questionable to me, and this is even more meandering, with interludes and characters that really go nowhere. But if you appreciated the beauty of the original (and as some of the negative reviewers surmised, learning how to have fulfilling, mature relationships is not one of the things you should come here for), hearing this considerably longer version is wonderful. "Artie Bucco"'s reading is a joy--I kept forgetting that I wasn't listening to Kerouac reading it. He really captures the spirit, and was one of the best matches between reader and material that I have heard.
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- csk

a sure-fire winner in all respects

John Ventimiglia is a fine narrator, giving a lusty performance that never bores. It sounds as if we're listening to Kerouac himself. Of course it helps that the "original scroll" was written in an autobiographical style, that Kerouc names the real names (Allen Ginsburg, etc). There's nothing not to like in this recording: in fact, I'd say this was award-nominating material. My only caution is that as the scroll itself was without a break, so too the narration--you'll find yourself listening way longer than you'd intended, falling into the rythm of the road and the poetry of Kerouc as interpreted by Ventimiglia.
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- Michael J. Cox

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-02-2007
  • Publisher: Penguin Audiobooks