On the Road: The Original Scroll
  • On the Road: The Original Scroll
  • On the Road: The Original Scroll
  • On the Road: The Original Scroll
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On the Road: The Original Scroll

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by Jack Kerouac
     
 

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The legendary 1951 scroll draft of On the Road, published word for word as Kerouac originally composed it

Though Jack Kerouac began thinking about the novel that was to become On the Road as early as 1947, it was not until three weeks in April 1951, in an apartment on West Twentieth Street in Manhattan, that he wrote the first full draft

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Overview

The legendary 1951 scroll draft of On the Road, published word for word as Kerouac originally composed it

Though Jack Kerouac began thinking about the novel that was to become On the Road as early as 1947, it was not until three weeks in April 1951, in an apartment on West Twentieth Street in Manhattan, that he wrote the first full draft that was satisfactory to him. Typed out as one long, single-spaced paragraph on eight long sheets of tracing paper that he later taped together to form a 120 foot scroll, this document is among the most significant, celebrated, and provocative artifacts in contemporary American literary history. It represents the first full expression of Kerouac’s revolutionary aesthetic, the identifiable point at which his thematic vision and narrative voice came together in a sustained burst of creative energy. It was also part of a wider vital experimentation in the American literary, musical, and visual arts in the post-World War II period.

It was not until more than six years later, and several new drafts, that Viking published, in 1957, the novel known to us today. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of On the Road, Viking will publish the 1951 scroll in a standard book format. The differences between the two versions are principally ones of significant detail and altered emphasis. The scroll is slightly longer and has a heightened linguistic virtuosity and a more sexually frenetic tone. It also uses the real names of Kerouac’s friends instead of the fictional names he later invented for them. The transcription of the scroll was done by Howard Cunnell who, along with Joshua Kupetz, George Mouratidis, and Penny Vlagopoulos, provides a critical introduction that explains the fascinating compositional and publication history of On the Road and anchors the text in its historical, political, and social context.

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Editorial Reviews

Luc Sante
The biggest immediate difference between the first draft and the finished product…is that while we know On the Road as a novel—the great novel of the Beat Generation—the scroll is essentially nonfiction, a memoir that uses real names and is far less self-consciously literary. It is a dazzling piece of writing for all of its rough edges, and, stripped of affectations that in the novel can sometimes verge on bathos, as well as of gratuitous punctuation supplied by editors more devoted to rules than to music, it seems much more immediate and even contemporary&#The scroll clarifies the book's connection to the past—to Mark Twain and tramp narratives and Woody Guthrie and cowboy sagas—and underlines the features it shares with its nearest contemporaneous cultural relative, Robert Frank's great photographic road book The Americans. The novel that On the Road became was inarguably the book that young people needed in 1957, but the sparse and unassuming scroll is the living version for our time.
—The New York Times
Library Journal

Though On The Roadwouldn't be published until 1957, Keroauc wrote the book's initial draft in 1951 on a 120'-long sheet of paper without any paragraph breaks-a rolling boil of text. The early draft also uses the real names of those upon whom the characters are based (Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, etc.). The story went through several additional drafts, picking up fictitious names (Kerouac became Sal Paradise; Cassady, Dean Moriarty) and toning down the style a bit. The scroll looms large in the Kerouac legend, and this is the first time the original draft has been published as is (still no paragraph breaks). Solid fodder for scholars and a real treat for fans. A big thumbs up (get it?).


—Michael Rogers

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670063550
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/16/2007
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
569,208
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.31(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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