Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Subterraneans” as Want to Read:
The Subterraneans
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Subterraneans (Duluoz Legend)

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  9,502 ratings  ·  355 reviews
Written over the course of three days and three nights, The Subterraneans was generated out of the same kind of ecstatic flash of inspiration that produced another one of Kerouac's early classics, On the Road. Centering around the tempestuous breakup of Leo Percepied and Mardou Fox -- two denizens of the 1950s San Francisco underground -- The Subterraneans is a tale of dar ...more
Paperback, 111 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (first published 1958)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Subterraneans, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Subterraneans

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Sam Jasper
I am an admitted Kerouac fan and I think most people who read Kerouac begin and end with On the Road, which was of course groundbreaking in its day. I loved On the Road and have read it repeatedly on and off over decades. Subterraneans, however, sat on my shelf in the I'll-get-to-it pile. This book (more a novella than an novel)chronicles his affair with Mardou Fox (Alene Lee was her real name), a young black woman. While some have called it racist, and others misogynistic (the Beats weren't the ...more
Jun 25, 2008 Andy rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: drunken poseur buddhists
Shelves: jazznbeats
Kerouac's kind of a dick in this one, whining and chasing after this black girl Mardou all through the book. Once she caves in to his non-existent charms he dumps her like he's Tommy Lee or something.
When he's not crying for her to take him back he's busy fetishizing her blackness like she's a pickaninny doll and then drunkenly makes in-crowd jokes to his pals about Buddha and Boddhisatva. What a shithead.
A profoundly sad novel. I fall in and out of love with Kerouac's prose, but his story rips your heart out. It was recommended to me by a colleague who told me that this book is about "people who make decisions by not making any choices."

Ryan Milbrath
Written in 1958, The Subterraneans is Kerouac’s attempt at a memoir about the time-honored literary theme of relationships. At a superficial level, it is merely a novella about how a relationship can crumble in the face societal pressures. However, like relationships, one should never take a person, or written work, at merely face value. The Subterraneans is much more than a romance in the vein of “He’s just not that into you.” The relationship itself is something of taboo in the 1950s, Kerouac’ ...more
Oh, Jack. As always, the enthusiasm and momentum in his writing is infectious. I haven’t read anything by Kerouac for a few years before picking this one up, and I’d forgotten about the weirdness of trying to settle into it like it’s a linear story intended to be clearly followed in detail when really it’s a tilt-a-whirl kind of ride not about to stop and explain itself so all I can do is hang on, watch the colors spinning past, catch enough bits and pieces of the conversations and memories to b ...more
Craig Werner
Urban legend has it that On the Road is the primary example of Kerouac's "spontaneous prose," but the description works much better for The Subterraneans, for better and for worse. (He actually reworked On the Road heavily before it was published, but wrote TS over a three day period. It took me slightly longer to read it.

Let's start with the "for worse" part. Man, Kerouac could be a sexist pig. The cavalier treatment of women in TS will drive many readers bat-shit. It's an honest and accurate p
Jorge García
"Los subterráneos" es una música para ser oída de noche, con sus largos fraseos que suben y bajan, bocanadas de aire etílico y versos que estallan contra la ciudad: San Francisco, ciudad de maricas, poetas y vagabundos.
Tened cuidado de no perderos en esta ciudad subterránea, de andar por la calle equivocada, en la que todo envejece mal: el canto por el amor perdido, la energía sexual que fluye por las páginas, o ese amor pagano. Tal vez no sea más que el culto a sí mismo del dios Kerouac.
David Hartzheim
Having finished reading Jack Kerouac’s classic The Subterraneans, one feels as though one has been embraced and punched in the guts at the same time. Harmonious near-poetry one minute, it becomes a phonetic cacophony the next. The book is the on-again off-again love story of Leo and Mardou, San Francisco bohemians in the midst of the beat movement in the 1950s. Told in Kerouac’s trademark style: stream-of-conscious run-ons - a single sentence sometimes taking up the better part of a page, it’s t ...more
Nov 28, 2008 Csencsitz rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who enjoy Kerouac or are into that sort of ideal.
I really loved this book. Jack Kerouac, for all his iconic writing and cliche beatnick status, still manages to capture the life and thoughts of the younger generation who were simply looking for any sort of adventure. That is, they have their own dreams and attempt to reach them. Kerouac shows their growth and takes his readers through the realization that things aren't like they expected them to be. Somehow, though, even though this sort of melancholic epiphany seems to be common for his endin ...more
Simon Kirk
As one of the founders of the Beat Generation, author Jack Kerouac is now ironically reaping the rewards for his works back in the 1950s and early '60s, despite his unexpected death in 1969 at the ripe age of 47.

His 'innovative' use of spontaneous prose has been passed on as inspiration for many who dabble in the art of literature, while many modern musicians also stake claim in being influenced from the Lowell, Massachusetts born writer.

The Subterraneans - like many of Kerouac's novels - took l
In my spin through Kerouac's books, my friend said after reading On The Road and The Dharma Bums that my next task should be The Subterraneans.

Apparently, he wrote this 110-page book in only three days. While the bulk of On The Road was written in this way, making it an American classic, I have to say that for this book, it didn't work as well.

Here, Kerouac shows a more poetic than prosaic style. The sentences seem more like lyrics than in the other two books. Yet here that seemed to take away f
John Molina
I really disliked this book at first. I thought Kerouac had gotten lazy and was just writing whatever the hell popped into his mind-- and he his. And that is what makes the novel has compelling as it is. Kerouac is doing stuff I haven't seen anyone do in American Lit, and Kerouac is just such a romantic and optimist that it is hard to hate the man. "The Subterraneans" is a book about a 3 month fling between Kerouac and a young black woman. Kerouac's writing is tender and moving; one gets the fee ...more
Alexey Antikrun
Джек Керуак - потрясающий писатель, один из самых беспрецедентных в умении воздействовать на эмоции и воспроизводить лиризм своей бит-эпохи. Наиболее показательным в этом смысле я считаю роман Subterraneans (кстати, второй у писателя). Это может прозвучать бессмысленно, но я не читал "On The Road" и "Dharma Bums" (самые популярные его произведения), но знаю и люблю Big Sur, Doctor Sax и вышеупомянутый Subterraneans. Керуак пишет музыкально и поэтично, "Подземные" - самый короткий его роман-лавст ...more
Eric Arnold
I went into this book loving the writing style and thinking it was really refreshing and poetic but after like the 20th page of Jack fucking rambling on about getting drunk and obsessing over Mardou (who is fetishized for being black to an eyerolling degree. It was the 1950's and all, but fucking hell...)and countless social situations etc it got disorienting. I really liked On The Road(although that book established to me that Kerouac and most of the people he hung out with, if the fictionalize ...more
Jovana Vesper
Mnogo sličnosti sa "Naked Lunch"-om ali i jedna bitna razlika između spontane proze "The Subterraneans" i Barouzovih narkotičkih naklapanja - postojanje nekakve centralne teme, suštine. Ovo je praktično priručnik kako upropastiti osobu i vezu ukoliko ste izgubljeni, poluparanoični, nekonzistentni i beznadežno romantični. Jer Keruak to jeste - romantičan, nesiguran, izgubljen, sanjalica, Kejvov Loverman i pored svih ispada i (s)lomova ne možeš a da ne voliš njegovu brutalnu iskrenost, dnevničko i ...more
"Y yo me vuelvo a casa, habiendo perdido su amor. Y escribo este libro." Y con esta frase, Jack Kerouac ha podido conmigo.
(this review is omitting the questionable short story Pic found at the end of this edition)

I haven't read Kerouac in, what feels like, the longest time, and The Subterraneans was the perfect novella to re-fall in love with him. Sweet and the kind of sad that makes your heart wither, Kerouac's paradisical prose can demand my attention like no other writer can. The spontaneity that made him so famous is strikingly aware throughout the novella. A real sense is created that the reader is taking a pe
TC Jones
I really wanted to like this book. I tried my hardest to understand its unique style, its flowing movements lacking punctuation, and the free-form stream of conciousness. The problem was, I just couldn't. The narrative itself wasn't all that exciting; a lot of getting drunk and scoring with women, but not anything substantial that makes a worthwhile story.

I had trouble identifying with the characters or even liking them. They were drunk all the time, driven for nothing in life except sex and se
Zachary Johnson
Ahh, The beat generation. What an Isle of Misfit Toys. I think from most of the books I have read, the ones from the beat generation are the most interesting. I haven't secured a copy of On the Road But when I do I will fully judge Jack Kerouac. Moving on to this book. I was rather interested in the main character at the beginning of the book. He is a Vagabond/Sailor/Hippie in the San Francisco area. He has a group of friends that pretty much do nothing more then sit around and drink and smoke T ...more
I am occasionally dizzied or nauseated by the oddest things. Knitting with black yarn, for instance, or the novel "Nausea," of which I could not pass two pages. My reason for getting queasy with this novel, however, requires no exotic explanation. Poor grammar! Perhaps it could be mistaken for poetry in prose. A whirlwind of ideas, a maelstrom of images rushing towards the reader to allow him or her to experience the narrator's emotions and reactions. This approach may have worked, had these emo ...more
This is the third book by Kerouac I have read, and without fail, they all have an unusual raw emotional gravity about them. This book is short burst of linguistic invention--supposedly written in only three days, and it reads as such. It weighs in at a little over 100 pages, but is full of love, disgust, drunkenness, excitment, and the peculiar next-day regret hangover. It does not match either On the Road or The Town and the City in terms of overall narrative power, but is a strangely compellin ...more
Mario Gámez
Jul 21, 2013 Mario Gámez rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mario by: Miguel Soto
Entre pausas (de otros dos libros por párrafo) logré completar esta obra. No me gustó, sin embargo reconozco su valor como una buena crónica de la generación beat en su apogeo, una especie de autobiografía de Kerouac (sus roces con otros escritores que "sí llegaron a la fama rápidamente"), y una historia de amor (¿Bizarra? ¿Inusual? ¿O como cualquier otra?) que termina poniendo al protagonista en la friendzone, O Discordia.

Tanta borrachera me hizo odiar mi gusto por una buena cerveza de vez en c
Not my favorite Kerouac. I like this, though:
... with the balloon Mardou had (drunk) danced around the floor, puffing and poooshing and flupping it up with dance interpretive gestures and said something that not only made me fear her madness, her hospital type insanity, but cut my heart deeply, and so deeply that she could not therefore have been insane, in communicating something so exactly, with precise – whatever - “You can go now I have this balloon.” – “What do you mean?” (I, drunk, on floo
Kerouac's stream of consciousness style is perfect for narrating a jumbled, tangled, thorny love affair with a woman he can't pull himself together enough to keep but nonetheless mourned enough to write a book about, documenting their passionate flame/flame out. Subterraneans was written in three days/nights, and its pacing reflects the rush of ideas Kerouac was having at the time--about this dark skinned woman, about drinking, about jealousy, about the ways these pieces all tore at one another. ...more
The Subterraneans is a good example of Kerouac's attempt at trying to establish a Beat prose-style. After having read or attempted to read (seeing as I still have to finish reading the novel) On the Road, I was surprised by the ending of the Subterraneans as well as its more apparent plot. The subject matter was different from what I expected to find in a work by Kerouac. It took me a while to get used to the style again and at times I found it difficult to continue reading. Still, especially af ...more
More poetic than any of the other novels I've read by Kerouac. Definitely more melancholy. An enjoyably honest portrait of a fabled time and space although the tone of the racial elements feels a bit awkward now.

The bonus novel 'Pic' is a curious pastiche of Huckleberry Finn and a brief sketch of a road trip.
In this semi-autobiographical story, Kerouac (as Leo Percepied) recounts his short-lived romance with a black woman (Alene Lee as Mardou Fox) during 1953 in San Francisco. Fox and Percepied frequent jazz clubs and other Beat hotspots mingling with other famous writers such as Allen Ginsberg and Gore Vidal (each represented under a pseudonym).

While I love "The Dharma Bums" and "On the Road," this a fairly forgettable book. Kerouac wrote about what he knew and he lived an interesting, though unst
Jennifer Merrilee
This book was a tough read for me, not that It was over-complicated but the fact Kerouac once again seems mystified on the rules of sentence structure and doesn’t believe in paragraphs makes it tough to get through. How can a book at that time be published without an editor is beyond me, but perhaps he insisted on it or else it’d be ruined.

The story revolves around his pursuit and relationship with a woman he met at a Beat bar. He mentions many times how she’s half black and half American India
Los Subterráneos es la segunda novela importante publicada de Kerouac. Tras el éxito de “On the Road” consiguió publicar en 1958 este libro escrito 5 años antes, mientras todavía “pulía” la anterior.
La novela, escrita como un libro de memorias en primera persona, es considerada por algunos como su mejor libro. A mí personalmente me ha parecido más embarullado y alocado que En la carretera y bastante difícil de leer por momentos. En el libro se mezclan todos los fantasmas que tiene en la cabeza e
I confess I struggle with the spontaneous prose of Kerouac at times, and I found that particularly true in the first half of The Subterraneans, but I loved this book, and wanted to start it all over again as soon as I'd finished. Sometimes the images he creates in the mind are so vivid it's as though I'm there, watching through a window. This, for instance, from a scene not long after they've met, where Mardou is sitting on Leo's lap, telling him her life story: "Her little brown hand is curled ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Perks Of Bein...: One paragraph review: Kerouac's The Subterraneans 1 14 May 12, 2013 12:15PM  
  • The Wild Boys
  • Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac
  • Kerouac: A Biography
  • Go
  • The First Third
  • Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg
  • The Fall of America
  • Jack Kerouac: Angel-Headed Hipster
  • Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir
  • Jack's Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac
  • Women of the Beat Generation: The Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of a Revolution
  • Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats
  • Memoirs of a Beatnik
  • Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think)
Born on March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts, Jack Kerouac's writing career began in the 1940s, but didn't meet with commercial success until 1957, when On the Road was published. The book became an American classic that defined the Beat Generation. Kerouac died on October 21, 1969, from an abdominal hemorrhage, at age 47.
Early Life

Famed writer Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Keroua
More about Jack Kerouac...

Other Books in the Series

Duluoz Legend (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings
  • Visions of Gerard
  • Dr. Sax
  • The Town and the City
  • Maggie Cassidy
  • Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education, 1935-46
  • On the Road
  • Visions of Cody
  • Tristessa
  • The Dharma Bums
On the Road The Dharma Bums Big Sur Desolation Angels On the Road: the Original Scroll

Share This Book

“beautiful insane
in the rain”
“The details are the life of it, I insist, say everything on your mind, don’t hold back, don’t analyze or anything as you go along, say it out.” 113 likes
More quotes…