American Notes: End of the Road

Jack Kerouac's "barbaric yawp" broke into the American consciousness in the middle years of Eisenhower. At roughly the same time, Marlon Brando, adenoidal and inarticulately glowering, careered through adolescent daydreams astride a Harley-Davidson. From the perspective of the late '60s, the old rebellions and spontaneities seem as touchingly quaint as the shock they elicited at the time. Kerouac's vision was compounded of Buddhism, booze (of all bourgeois things) and a chaotic lowlife that he worked into exuberant underground literature. When he wrote of casual sex or marijuana, they were still exotic...

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