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The Subterraneans (Duluoz Legend)

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  11,432 Ratings  ·  436 Reviews
Jack Kerouac, one of the great voices of the Beat generation and author of the classic On the Road, here continues his peregrinations in postwar, underground San Francisco. "The subterraneans" come alive at night, travel along dark alleyways, and live in a world filled with paint, poetry, music, smoke, and sex. Simmering in the center of it all is the brief affair between ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published 1994 by Grove Weidenfeld (first published 1958)
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On the Road by Jack KerouacThe Dharma Bums by Jack KerouacBig Sur by Jack KerouacDesolation Angels by Jack KerouacThe Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac's Best
19 books — 90 voters
On the Road by Jack KerouacHowl and Other Poems by Allen GinsbergThe Dharma Bums by Jack KerouacNaked Lunch by William S. BurroughsJunky by William S. Burroughs
Beat Lit
179 books — 154 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Sam Jasper
Jul 14, 2012 Sam Jasper rated it really liked it
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
Dec 05, 2006 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, california
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."

Jun 25, 2008 Andy rated it it was ok
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.
Aug 29, 2009 Nicole rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-hero
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
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
Stefania T.
Jul 23, 2015 Stefania T. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fernanda-pivano
...quando gli uccelli diventan squallore, quello è il segno. Ma penso anche peggio di così, immagini del mio lavoro trascurato, il mio ben-essere (ancora il solito cosiddetto ben-essere) sfasciato, il cervello mutilato per sempre ormai - le idee di lavorare alla ferrovia - Oh Signore questa follia e la stupida illusione e tutta quanta la tiritera e la pazzia che noi erigiamo al posto dell'unico amore, nella nostra tristezza - ma ora che Mardou al mio fianco, stanca, solenne, triste, capace gioca ...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
Dec 15, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, beatniks
There they are -- the Subterraneans -- drunk as skunks while they burble on about literature and their love lives. Jack Kerouac (Leo Percepied in the book) wants nothing more than spend all his hours with these pseudo-intellectual lowlifes, but at the same time attempt to maintain a relationship with Mardou Fox, a young black woman. The Subterraneans is the story of this relationship and how it winds to a close with Jack deciding in the end he wanted life on his own boozy terms.

The pity of it i
Andrés Cabrera
Valoro de Jack Kerouac su sinceridad e inocencia. Puede que, al menos dentro de lo que leído, Kerouac sea el escritor más inocente de todos: genuinamente interesado por la diferencia, por el ritmo frenético de su vida y la de los demás, por las nuevas formas y maneras de ser y vivir y, por qué no, por las nuevas potencias narrativas que su pluma estaba siendo capaz de generar. En cierto modo, siento a Kerouac como ese niño que juega sobre la arena y se asombra con el potencial que dicho material ...more
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.
Aug 02, 2014 Jamnjazzz rated it really liked it
Shelves: hiatus
Well... finally finished this book. I takes some effort to get into the rhythm and cadence of the prose in this one... This is one of Jack's spontaneous prose efforts, and once I did get into it, I moved quickly. OK so now for the review, I'll not consider the style in doing so.

This was an interesting story about a person searching for his path and purpose. A story about a man who would love you but push you away at the same time, a man who while able to adore everything good about you, could fi
David Hartzheim
Mar 24, 2014 David Hartzheim rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
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
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
Sep 26, 2007 Chris rated it it was ok
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
Greg Z
Oct 22, 2015 Greg Z rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
While at a used bookstore, I overheard two clerks in another aisle trying to decide where to shelve this book. They didn't mention the author or the name of the book, but location questions such as 'philosophy?' and 'biography?' and 'just plain fiction?' encouraged me to find their aisle and say, simply, "I'll take it." (Paperbacks were on sale that day for a quarter.) At that time, I had just finished Burrough's "Junky" and had just started on Ginsberg's poetry. Obviously, the universe conspire ...more
Oct 14, 2008 Csencsitz rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jan 14, 2015 georgia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(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
Johnny Eastman
Jun 23, 2017 Johnny Eastman rated it it was amazing
For me this was a special experience, not necessarily because of the story but because of Kerouacs writing style, the language he uses leaves you behing speachless and its probably some of the best prose Ive ever read.
Alexey Antikrun
Nov 04, 2014 Alexey Antikrun rated it it was amazing
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
Frank F. Ayala
La vida de Jack Kerouac, y por extensión la del resto de los beatniks, fue tan interesante y divertida que no necesitan crear personajes para escribir libros; ellos mismos se bastan y se sobran para crear historias.

Este es uno de esos libros perfectos para leer fumando en el suelo del baño a las 2 de la madrugada (lo cual he hecho en más de una ocasión, a decir verdad). No es mi primera vez con Kerouac; ya había leído su obra más famosa (la obra más famosa de la generación beat, de hecho), En E
Apr 12, 2008 Brett rated it really liked it
Shelves: classy-fiction
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
TC Jones
Jun 29, 2010 TC Jones rated it it was ok
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
Eric Arnold
Aug 30, 2014 Eric Arnold rated it did not like it
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
Zachary Johnson
Dec 20, 2012 Zachary Johnson rated it liked it
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
John Molina
Mar 26, 2015 John Molina rated it liked it
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
Nov 22, 2007 Aditi rated it did not like it
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
Jun 27, 2013 Joe rated it it was ok
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
Apr 27, 2013 Mario rated it liked it  ·  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
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
Jun 14, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it
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
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The Perks Of Bein...: One paragraph review: Kerouac's The Subterraneans 1 15 May 12, 2013 12:15PM  
  • Go
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  • Jack's Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac
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Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac 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.

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

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“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.” 134 likes
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