ON THE ROAD (310 pp.) Jack KerouacViking ($3.95).
Last summer a U.S. writer named Jack Kerouac went to Paris, was unable to find a room or anyone to talk to. and went home after a week. "Paris." he says, "rejected me." Now he spends a lot of time in his mother's house in Orlando, Fla., painting (on cheap paper, with a mixture of house paint and glue) and writing (sometimes in much the same style). Having learned that the Left Bank ''lost generation" era is no more, he writes about the "beat generation"and "beat," he says, really stands for "beatific."
The post-World War II generationbeat or beatifichas not found symbolic spokesmen with anywhere near the talents of Fitzgerald, Hemingway or Nathanael West. In this novel, talented Author Kerouac, 35, does not join that literary league, either, but at least he suggests that his generation is not silent. With his barbaric yawp of a book. Kerouac commands attention as a kind of literary James Dean.
The story is set in the late 1940s. told in the first person by Sal Paradise, a budding writer given to ecstasies about America, hot jazz, the meaning of life, and marijuana. The book's protagonist is Dean Moriarty ("a sideburned hero of the snowy West"), who has spent a third of his waking time in poolrooms, a third in jail, a third in public libraries, and is always shouting "Yes, yes, yes!" to every experience. Dean and Sal and their other buddiesCarlo Marx, the frenzied poet; Ed Dunkel, an amiable cipher; Remi Boncoeur, who has the second loudest laugh in San Franciscoare forever racing cross-country to meet one another. Their frantic reunions are curiously reminiscent of lodge and business conventions, with the same shouts of fellowship, hard drinking, furtive attempts at sexual dallianceand, after a few days, the same boredom.
Belly-Bottom Strain. Then Sal's pals are off again, by bus. on foot, by thumb, roaming the continent, feeling the wind of Wyoming nights and the heat of Texas days, looking for Moriarty's never-to-be-found father or anyone's sister, always expecting the ultimate in music or love or understanding around the next bend in the road. Excitement and movement mean everything. Steady jobs and homes in the suburbs are for the "squares."