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Practise your English with this twentieth-century masterpiece of travel, life love and the madness of youth. Based on Jack Kerouac’s own experiences driving across the USA, ‘On The Road’ tells the story of Sal Paradise – the narrator – and Dean Moriarty. This book stands out of all the works written by the ‘Beat Generation’ , and has been an inspiration for the young and restless ever since its publication.
(1) Read the extract as you listen to the narration, and fill in the gaps below.
(2) Answer the True/False questions to test your comprehension.
(3) Download and read the complete book.
Remember – if you want to know the definition or pronunciation of any word, just double-click, or use the black ‘dictionary” tab in the bottom right corner!
There are 10 adjectives / adverbs missing. If you need more help, they are written at the end of the text.
I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably 1.________ split-up and my feeling that everything was dead. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road. Before that I’d often dreamed of going West to see the country, always 2._______ planning and never taking off. Dean is the perfect guy for the road because he actually was born on the road, when his parents were passing through Salt Lake City in 1926, in a jalopy, on their way to Los Angeles.
First reports of him came to me through Chad King, who’d shown me a few letters from him written in a New Mexico reform school. I was tremendously interested in the letters because they so 3. ________ and sweetly asked Chad to teach him all about Nietzsche and all the wonderful intellectual things that Chad knew. At one point Carlo and I talked about the letters and wondered if we would ever meet the strange Dean Moriarty. This is all far back, when Dean was not the way he is today, when he was a young jailkid shrouded in mystery. Then news came that Dean was out of reform school and was coming to New York for the first time; also there was talk that he had just married a girl called Marylou.
One day I was hanging around the campus and Chad and Tim Gray told me Dean was staying in a cold-water pad in East Harlem, the Spanish Harlem. Dean had arrived the night before, the first time in New York, with his beautiful little 4._______ chick Marylou; they got off the Greyhound bus at 50th Street and cut around the corner looking for a place to eat and went right in Hector’s, and since then Hector’s cafeteria has always been a big symbol of New York for Dean. They spent money on beautiful big glazed cakes and creampuffs.
All this time Dean was telling Marylou things like this: “Now, darling, here we are in New York and although I haven’t quite told you everything that I was thinking about when we crossed Missouri and especially at the point when we passed the Booneville reformatory which reminded me of my jail problem, it is absolutely necessary now to postpone all those 5.________ things concerning our personal lovethings and at once begin thinking of specific worklife plans . . .” and so on in the way that he had in those early days.
I went to the cold-water flat with the boys, and Dean came to the door in his shorts. Marylou was jumping off the couch; Dean had dispatched the occupant of the apartment to the kitchen, probably to make coffee, while he proceeded with his loveproblems, for to him sex was the one and only holy and important thing in life, although he had to sweat and curse to make a living and so on. You saw that in the way he stood bobbing his head, always looking down, nodding, like a young boxer to instructions, to make you think he was listening to every word, throwing in a thousand “Yeses” and “That’s rights.” My first impression of Dean was of a young Gene Autry-trim, 6.________, blue-eyed, with a real Oklahoma accent-a sideburned hero of the snowy West. In fact he’d just been working on a ranch, Ed Wall’s in Colorado, before marrying Marylou and coming East.
Marylou was a pretty blonde with immense ringlets of hair like a sea of golden tresses; she sat there on the edge of the couch with her hands hanging in her lap and her smoky blue country eyes fixed in a wide stare because she was in an evil gray New York pad that she’d heard about back West, and waiting like a longbodied emaciated Modigliani surrealist woman in a serious room. But, outside of being a sweet little girl, she was awfully 7._______ and capable of doing horrible things. That night we all drank beer and pulled wrists and talked till dawn, and in the morning, while we sat around dumbly smoking butts from ashtrays in the gray light of a 8._______ day, Dean got up nervously, paced around, thinking, and decided the thing to do was to have Marylou make breakfast and sweep the floor. “In other words we’ve got to get on the ball, darling, what I’m saying, otherwise it’ll be fluctuating and lack of true knowledge or crystallization of our plans.” Then I went away.
During the following week he confided in Chad King that he absolutely had to learn how to write from him; Chad said I was a writer and he should come to me for advice. Meanwhile Dean had gotten a job in a parking lot, had a fight with Marylou in their Hoboken apartment-God knows why they went there-and she was so mad and so down deep vindictive that she reported to the police some false 9.______ hysterical crazy charge, and Dean had to lam from Hoboken. So he had no place to live. He came right out to Paterson, New Jersey, where I was living with my aunt, and one night while I was studying there was a knock on the door, and there was Dean, bowing, shuffling
obsequiously in the dark of the hall, and saying, “Hello, you remember me-Dean Moriarty? I’ve come to ask you to show me how to write.”
“And where’s Marylou?” I asked, and Dean said she’d apparently whored a few dollars together and gone back to Denver-“the whore!” So we went out to have a few beers because we couldn’t talk like we wanted to talk in front of my aunt, who sat in the living room reading her paper. She took one look at Dean and decided that he was a madman.
In the bar I told Dean, “Hell, man, I know very well you didn’t come to me only to want to become a writer, and after all what do I really know about it except you’ve got to stick to it with the energy of a benny addict.” And he said, “Yes, of course, I know exactly what you mean and in fact all those problems have occurred to me, but the thing that I want is the realization of those factors that should one depend on Schopenhauer’s dichotomy for any inwardly realized . . .” and so on in that way, things I understood not a bit and he himself didn’t. In those days he really didn’t know what he was talking about; that is to say, he was a young jailkid all hung-up on the wonderful possibilities of becoming a real intellectual, and he liked to talk in the tone and using the words, but in a 10.______ way, that he had heard from “real intellectuals”-although, mind you, he wasn’t so naive as that in all other things, and it took him just a few months with Carlo Marx to become completely in there with all the terms and jargon. Nonetheless we understood each other on other levels of madness, and I agreed that he could stay at my house till he found a job and furthermore we agreed to go out West sometime. That was the winter of 1947.
The missing words (not in order):
vaguely gloomy leftover weary naively thin-hipped jumbled dumb trumped-up sharp
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Questions: True (T), False (F)?
- The narrator didn’t know anything about Dean Moriarty before he met him.
- They met each other through mutual friends.
- The narrator was had gone through a bad period in his life.
- Dean had got married before leaving the reformatory / jail.
- Dean and his wife promptly split up after coming to New York.
- The narrator offered to put Dean up.
Extra exercise…. What do the adjectives / adverbs above mean?
B) not very clearly
C) invented, falsified
E) mixed, with no order
F) extra, not needed, superfluous
G) not very clever
I) very clever, sometimes in a negative sense
J) with a very narrow body
Answers to the True/False exercise:
- The narrator didn’t know anything about Dean Moriarty before he met him. FALSE! His friend Chad had told him about Dean.
- They met each other through mutual friends. TRUE! He went to Dean’s flat with Chad and Tim.
- The narrator was had gone through a bad period in his life. TRUE! He had split up with his wife and had had an illness.
- Dean had got married before leaving the reformatory / jail. FALSE! He had left the jail, worked on a ranch for a short time, then married Marylou before coming to New York.
- Dean and his wife promptly split up after coming to New York. TRUE! It’s not exactly clear how soon after, but it doesn’t seem to be very long.
- The narrator offered to put Dean up. TRUE! ‘I agreed he could stay at my house..’
Answers to the matching definitions:
1. weary = tired
2. vaguely = not clearly
3. naively = innocently
4. sharp = very clever, sometimes in a negative sense
5. leftover = extra, not needed, superfluous
6. thin-hipped = with a very narrow body
7. dumb = not very clever
8. gloomy = depressing
9. trumped-up = invented, falsified
10. jumbled = mixed, with no order