On the Road: The Original Scroll (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
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The legendary 1951 scroll draft of On the Road, published as Kerouac originally composed it
IN THREE WEEKS in April of 1951, Jack Kerouac wrote his first full draft of On the Road—typed as a single-spaced paragraph on eight long sheets of tracing paper, which he later taped together to form a 120-foot scroll. A major literary event when it was published in Viking hardcover in 2007, this is the uncut version of an American classic—rougher, wilder, and more provocative than the official work that appeared, heavily edited, in 1957. This version, capturing a moment in creative history, represents the first full expression of Kerouac’s revolutionary aesthetic.
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believe Kerouac had already arrived at this decision by himself. On June 24 Kerouac reported that while Giroux had said he liked the book, formally submitted in a conventionally typed format, Harcourt, Brace *Interviewed in the documentary On the Road to Desolation (David Steward, dir., BBC/NVC Arts Co-production, 1997), Giroux said: “I would say in the ﬁrst half of 1951, I was at my desk at Harcourt, Brace, and the phone rang and it was Jack, and he said, ‘Bob, I’ve ﬁnished it!’ and I said, ‘Oh
FAST THIS TIME | 3 this, just as the novel is far more spiritual quest than how-to-be-ahipster manual. On the Road does not appear out of clear blue air. From Kerouac’s writing journals we know that during his travels through America and Mexico from 1947 to 1950 he collected material for a road novel he ﬁrst mentions by name in an entry dated August 23, 1948. On the Road, Kerouac writes, “which I keep thinking about: [is] about two guys hitch-hiking to California in search of something they
of Kerouac’s ﬁrst novel can be found many of the themes that will dominate his second, while in the original version of On the Road the 4 | HOWARD CUNNELL reader marks the progress “Jack” makes in The Town and the City. If the style of On the Road can be read as a reaction to and a progression from that of the earlier book, then the original version of Road, which begins with the death of the father just as The Town and the City ends with that death, also shows how Kerouac’s second novel
writes, “an entire year ago. Not much to show for a year, but the ﬁrst year is always slow.” Still, Kerouac thought, the novel was “about to move.” By the end of the month Kerouac writes to “hell with it; don’t worry, simply do.” He trusted that in the “work itself” he would ﬁnd his way, but writes, “still don’t feel On the Road is begun.” FAST THIS TIME | 15 In November, and writing in the back of his “On the Road Readings and Notes, 1949” journal begun in the spring of that year, where he
showing me holds: reaching down under my crotch and lifting me up nimbly. In point of strength I could have thrown him clear to the ceiling with the same hold and I knew it well; but I never let him know for fear he’d want a wrestling match. A wrestling match with a guy like that could end up in shooting. I’m sure he was a better shot; I’d never had a gun in my life. It scared me to even load one. He desperately wanted to make arrests. One night we were alone on duty 169 and he came back