The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac

The Town and the City

'It is the sum of myself, as far as the written word can go' - Kerouac on "The Town and the City". Kerouac's debut novel is a great coming of age story which can be read as the essential prelude to his later classics. Inspired by grief over his father's death and gripped by determination to write the Great American Novel, he draws largely on his own New England childhood.

Details The Town and the City

TitleThe Town and the City
Release DateFeb 3rd, 2000
PublisherPenguin Classics
GenreFiction, Classics

Reviews The Town and the City

  • Jack
    My enthusiasm for Jack has waned in recent years but this is still my favorite Kerouac work, by far. It's the one I would recommend to anyone who is put off by the slapdash qualities of Jack's later writings. This is the closest Kerouac ever came to producing a mainstream novel: The prose is poetic, even flowery at times, but the most questionable Kerouac trademark -- aimless stream-of-consciousness passages, AKA "bop prosody" -- is nowhere to be...
  • Joseph
    The Town and the City: A Novel by Jack Kerouac is Kerouac's first novel and writing in a semi-autobiographical form. Kerouac needs no introduction to most readers. Everyone has read On the Road or at least, said they have read it. I found Kerouac difficult at first and the writing did not seem to flow right. A friend suggested I read it like the beat performers spoke and suddenly On the Road was very readable. The Town and the City: A Novel needs...
  • Bob
    This book floored me, I loved it. This story is jack Kerouac writing as Thomas Wolfe but emerging as Jack Kerouac. Genius! One of his greatest works! Many people dislike Kerouac because they hate or can't relate to his characters. Some people have a hard time reading his free form, Beat, Jazz, style of writing. But that's just all surface material, and that's the point. Between the lines of text and behind his characters are people just like you ...
  • Mel
    So this is one of the last Kerouac novels I haven't read. I got a lovely old paperback version but was putting off reading it for awhile. I was a bit worried that it would be too normal a novel written before he developed his style. But I totally still loved it. It was such a great book, started so normal American life of the 30s and 40s a family in a small town with their kids, but then before the end people were shooting up and their were books...
  • Thalia
    I found it hard to get into at first, I found it a little too descriptive of surroundings, it's very rural, but I persevered and my god it was worth it. There's no author quite like Kerouac, there's no soul like Kerouac. He's observant and articulate and delivers to the reader an understanding of so much, the lives of many characters are touched in this novel and it amazes me every time the depth to which each character is created, it seems Kerou...
  • Jeff
    In what I think I may consider to be Jack Kerouac's best work (indeed), we get a novel that transcends the Beat nomadic zeitgeist of a generation in favor of a very tender, very American, portrait of a bucolic American family as it morphs, changes, collapses, and triumphs (in not that order) over the years.I was refreshed by this novel page after page, enthused at the first turnings, in love with Kerouac's prose style, which is so flawless and te...
  • Velvetink
    I was not actually aware that this novel's characters were based on real life figures of the Beat generation until AFTER reading it. That kind of put a different light on it to me. While reading it unaware of the real idenitity of the characters, I was more impressed with his characterization of the difference's between the town and country, the effects of WW2 on everyone and the apparent poverty alongside great wealth in New York. Many of the ch...
  • Matthew
    I first tried to read "Town and the City" when I was 21 and I couldn't get into it because I wanted (and expected) it to be like "On the Road" and "The Dharma Bums" and his other Beat writings. Now, at the age of 34, I picked it up again to read and I fell in love with it. There were times when I was wondering if I were truly reading Kerouac or not. I haven't read any Thomas Wolfe, so I can't relate on that level, but this novel reminded me so mu...
  • Sairam Krishnan
    A gorgeous, gorgeous read. Kerouac's first book is everything I thought it would be, and more. I had been waiting to get my hands on this particular edition because of the intriguing Penguin Classics cover featuring a cigarette smoking Jack; when I did, I waited for the perfect time to read it. And then took my time doing so.I've been reading it for almost a month now, and I have seldom loved a book so much.Kerouac's timeless story of a small tow...
  • Michael Boyce
    I was surprised by this book. I didn't read it for a long time. I won't say the obvious things about it. Many said unkind things about it. Compared it mostly to another writer, in a disparaging way that I find prejudicial, and interesting for that. I didn't read it until recently, even though I've read his other works avidly and some of them repeatedly since I was a teenager. I re-read work very sparingly. There is a lot of good wrting out there ...
  • Bianca Cataldi
    Il meccanismo narrativo alla base di questo romanzo è incredibilmente affascinante. C'è Kerouac, ma non è ancora il Kerouac di Sulla strada che conosciamo più o meno tutti. Il romanzo, di per sé molto lungo, nasce come il racconto della vita della numerosa famiglia Martin tra la città (Galloway) e la metropoli (New York) e dei vari membri della famiglia racconta vita, crescita, riflessioni. Poi, però, intorno alla parte terza (con la compa...
  • Olivia
    Perhaps one of my favorite Kerouac novels...perhaps one of my favorite novels period. I always pick up his writing due to some insatiable need for clarity and understanding. Kerouac can write about anything and capture such an incredible shared human experience within his pages, something that is even more apparent because he writes about the things that are burning in his mind and heart. He writes about them all in such a way that you ache with ...
  • Jason Baldwin-Stephens
    Overall The Town and The City is worth the praise that it receives though I'm surprised that many Kerouac fans claim it to be their favorite when compared to his other works. What I enjoyed the most was were the moments where Kerouac's writing in the nevel exists somewhere between the style he would become famous for and what was clearly the heavy Thomas Wolfe influence he was under at the time of writing this. Those were the moments when I felt ...
  • Ned
    and reading this was like sticking my head right into the lost, forlorn, desperate, burning soul of Kerouac... and knowing I'm just where I'm supposed to be. and knowing there's some way to expel all the heartbreak and beauty out of ourselves.... the realness of being... that thing that heaves so often in my chest. and a book can be that. Truman Capote never read this...
  • Greg
    Proof Kerouac could have written in any style he wanted to write. It's an amazing, thorough, engrossing novel about a family that collapses as it moves to New York. It's amazing in that it runs contrary to everything Kerouac embraces in his later novels. Here he mourns the breakup of the family, its misguided move to the big city. At the same time it does echo Kerouac's lifelong preoccupation with making the "wrong" decision in life (quitting foo...
  • Joshua Rhys
    A unique book in Kerouac's canon, The Town and the City is ultimately a rewarding read. Perhaps more accessable to your standard reader, it flows much more conventionally than his other, more stylistic novels. It follows the ups and downs of the traditonally American (and somewhat cliched) Martin family, with a particular focus on the sons Peter, Francis and Joe. The narrative and setting are not particularly original; the early portions set in t...
  • Whitney
    Man, man, man. I don't know what to say about this book, really. It's one of those books with a very simple plot that is simultaneously about everything. It hit me especially hard having recently left the town of my youth for a major metropolitan city. That's one of the main themes: leaving home. It also grapples with the definition of home and why importance is placed on it.When you're a little kid, you think your dad has all the answers. You th...
  • Tim Weakley
    I had to keep reminding myself that Kerouac was 28 when this was published. While you can tell that he hadn't quite found his voice yet the elements of his stories to come were already to be seen here. The bebop, drug culture, and New York City elements are a great contrast to the small town beginning, and the ending rural reclamation and reconciliation on the old family home. Kerouac ends the book off with Peter, the lonesome child, starting off...
  • Kevin Kizer
    A favorite of mine that I re-read every year during autumn. A wonderful, sad elegy to an America long since gone. Definitely, the most traditional of all Kerouac's novels. You can see (read?) the influence of Thomas Wolfe, which annoyed Kerouac. It's a great precursor to "On The Road", even ending with "Peter Martin" getting ready to hitchhike across the country. For me, the Thanksgiving football bit (which closes the first major section of the n...
  • Colleen
    I absolutely love this book. I thought I had a decent idea of Kerouac character, but after reading The Town and the City I really do know him. Written from a multi-biographical perspective, Kerouac tells of his life from several characters, which all serve as part of his own personalities. An absolutely inspiring, sad, funny and honest account of a true Beat prose genius. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in American Literature. O...
  • Paulkelly05
    This was my first book I read of Kerouac. It was his only novel before he descended into his free verse drivel. I have only read this book once but I keep wanting to give it another read. I really liked it the first time I read it. It starts off with the family that lives in the country and follows all the kids for a few years as they go out into the world. They each grow differently despite similar origins. I thought a number of the characters w...
  • Kathy Hiester
    The Town and the City is Jack Kerouac’s first novel and it can truly be described as a great start. The portrayals of characters and places are brilliantly described and the story has all you could hope for in a great novel: it's touching, infuriating, entertaining and heart-wrenching all at once. The Town and the City is written in a more conservative mode than Kerouac’s later works. However, you can start to see his distinctive style coming...
  • Brett
    An amazing book, though very different from later Kerouac. Moments of cutting clarity laced through a sea of vague emotional upheaval. Hard to formulate in words since there's little plot, but insightful of the range of human feeling and need.
  • Keri
    Before Kerouac established his stream of consciousness style of writing, he wrote this linear narrative. Wonderful.
  • Beth Bee
    Has to be the BEST KEROUAC BOOK ever. Rereading it...
  • Ripley
    No one appreciates the love of their family and small town life until they find themselves out of it and making their way in the big wide world. Adventure awaits the Martin family as the older boys, Joe, Peter, and Francis leave their small town of Galloway to go to college. Joe decides against college and instead becomes a truck driver travelling the united states. Peter is the star football player at high school and despite his worries of being...
  • Michael Volpi
    Read On the Road, Dharma Bums, Big Sur, The Subterraneans, etc., as a late teen. Fell in love. Kerouac--the Beats, in general--ignited my passion for reading. A few years passed, and the 'First thought, best thought' dictum to me, as a writer, seemed to be laziness dressed in Romantic frills. I became disillusioned with my heroes. Early thirties, read Kerouac's first, and Truman Capote's (apt) cynicism and dismisiveness evaporated from my critica...
  • Arthur Thomas
    Amazing. I wasn't sure I would enjoy this book but I did. I found myself thinking "I want to re-read this again someday soon" even before I was finished.
  • Bertie
    I'd heard this book was a lot different compared to later Kerouac classics, and true it is different in lots of ways especially his writing style. But never for once is it dull and you can sense the magic of Kerouac's prose in every single page. His descriptions of the Martin family members are fantastic and I felt a real connection with all of them throughout the book. All the characters stories are nicely interwoven and you see them grow up fro...
  • Steffy
    4.5"He had never felt anything like that before - yet somehow he knew that from now on he would always feel like that, always, and something caught at his throat as he realized what a strange sad adventure life might get to be, strange and sad and still much more beautiful and amazing than he could ever have imagined because it was so really, strangely sad."This is my first Kerouac read. I thought it would be nice to start at his beginnings of wr...