The most famous novel of the Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac's On the Road, was published 50 years ago this month.
To mark this literary landmark, The New Yorker's Louis Menand has written a essay for the October 1 issue called "Drive, He Wrote: What the Beats were about." It's a thoughtful and informed contemplation of Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and the times that produced this autobiographical American road novel.
On the Road, Menand writes, was influential because it de-Europeanized the novel and "made America a subject for literary fiction."
The novel also romanticized the American highway, a romance mostly gone even by the time the novel appeared. But Kerouac's fictionalized travels across the continent remain a powerful reminder of the hopes and dashed dreams of post-war America, a place where Kerouac and his fellow Beats never quite fit in.