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16 Relatable Jack Kerouac Quotes

Words of wisdom for the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, and mad to be saved.

Contemplative, brooding, and the voice of the Beat generation: these are the terms used to describe On the Road author Jack Kerouac. Since the publication of his 1950 debut, The Town and the City, Kerouac’s work has captivated readers across the world. After reading On the Road, who didn’t want to hit the pavement, grab a friend, and drive towards an unknown destination? Something about Kerouac’s writing—often an unfiltered stream of consciousness— captured the free-spiritedness we all aspire to, while conveying a sense of profound understanding. 

Before his death at the age of 47 in 1969, Kerouac wrote poetry, short stories, essays, and novels. His meditations on spirituality, jazz, sex, and drugs became a significant force in popular culture, inspiring musicians like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Patti Smith. Decades later, the Kerouac legend remains. He may be the voice of a bygone era—but that voice can still be heard today. Check out some of our favorite Jack Kerouac quotes below. 


The Town and the City

By Jack Kerouac

“Will you love me in December as you do in May?” —The Town and the City

“He saw that all the struggles of life were incessant, laborious, painful, that nothing was done quickly, without labor, that it had to undergo a thousand fondlings, revisings, moldings, adding, removings, graftings, tearings, correctings, smoothings, rebuildings, reconsiderings, nailings, tackings, chippings, hammerings, hoistings, connectings—all the poor fumbling uncertain incompletions of human endeavor. They went on forever and were forever incomplete, far from perfect, refined, or smooth, full of terrible memories of failure and fears of failure, yet, in the way of things, somehow noble, complete, and shining in the end.” —The Town and the City

Desolation Angels

By Jack Kerouac

“Every night I still ask the Lord, “Why?” and haven’t heard a decent answer yet.” —Desolation Angels

“So shut up, live, travel, adventure, bless and don’t be sorry.” —Desolation Angels

“Why did God do it? or is there really a Devil who led the Fall? Souls in Heaven said "We want to try mortal existence, O God, Lucifer said it's great!"—Bang, down we fall, to this, to concentration camps, gas ovens, barbed wire, atom bombs, television murders, Bolivian starvation, thieves in silk, thieves in neckties, thieves in office, paper shufflers, bureaucrats, insult, rage, dismay, horror, terrified nightmares, secret death of hangovers, cancer, ulcers, strangulation, pus, old age, old age homes, canes, puffed flesh, dropped teeth, stink, tears, and goodbye. Somebody else write it, I don’t know how.” —Desolation Angels

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On the Road

By Jack Kerouac

“I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” —On the Road

“...Most of the time we were alone and mixing up our souls ever more and ever more till it would be terribly hard to say goodbye.” —On the Road

“Emotionlessly she kissed me in the vineyard and walked off down the row. We turned at a dozen paces, for love is a duel, and looked up at each other for the last time.” —On the Road

“…The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles…” —On the Road

Book of Blues

By Jack Kerouac

“It’s okay, girl, we’ll make it till the sun goes down forever. And until then, what you got to lose but the losing? We’re fallen angels who didn’t believe that nothing means nothing.” —Book of Blues

Tristessa

By Jack Kerouac

“The beauty of things must be that they end.” —Tristessa

“Maybe that’s what life is...a wink of the eye and winking stars.” —Selected Letters, 1940-1956 

“Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry. Take pen and paper, and scribble words so utterly moving that whosoever reads them believes that the world is shaking and that, somewhere, mountains are crumbling.” —Jack Kerouac

“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing the lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” —Jack Kerouac

“You’d be surprised how little I knew even up to yesterday.” —Jack Kerouac

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