Saturday, September 01, 2007

On the Road the Original Roll

the opening of On the Road as typed by Ti Jean Kerouac.

Last month the original manuscript for On the Road by Jack Kerouac was published for the first time. It differs from the first edition which came out 50 years ago on September 5 1957 in several ways. All the original names were used in the text, pointing to the fact that much of it was first written by Kerouac as the events depicited were occuring around him and he scribbeled in his little notebooks. Reading the vast Visions of Cody one gets a much clearer understanding of how Kerouac worked; lighting fast, intoxicated (by life as much by substances) and pulling everything he could into the creation of prose.

As the story goes, On the Road was written by Kerouac in three weeks while living with his second wife, Joan Haverty, in an apartment at 454 West Twentieth Street in Manhattan, which he typed on one long scroll of teletype paper, which Kerouac called "the roll."[2] The roll does exist — it was purchased in 2001 by Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, for $2.4 million — and it was indeed typed in a blazing three weeks, singlespaced with no margins or paragraph breaks. But the story overlooks some of the finer points of the novel's composition. Much of the book was actually written as it happened, over the seven years of Kerouac's travels, in the small notebooks that he always carried with him and wrote in during his spare time. The myth also overlooks the tedious organization and preparation that came before Kerouac's creative explosion, as well as the fact that Kerouac revised the novel several times before Malcolm Cowley of Viking Press agreed to publish it.

I think this is an important event, not in the sense of us obtaining some 'orginal' On the Road, as the one that was published is the one Kerouac had to live with. Rather this is a chance for us to gain an image of the man Kerouac and those people who surrounded him at the time he was looking around and taking notes.

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