Books: Hip's History

Two cool books decode its passions and put-ons

I'M THINKING OF MAKING ON THE ROAD A vast story of those I know," Jack Kerouac confided to his journals, "as well as a study of rain and rivers." Rain and rivers--why not? For his hyperkinetic, endearing, exasperating 1957 novel, Kerouac tried to admit whole worlds. An account of a few pinwheeling characters in perpetual cross-country motion, it had room to spare for rivers, landscapes, starry skies, Benzedrine addicts, endless marathons of driving and lots of fast-talking madmen. "Because the only people for me are the mad ones," Kerouac's narrator, Sal Paradise, tells us. "The ones who are mad to live,...

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