Saturday, 14 February 2009


William Burroughs remarked that "Kerouac opened a million coffee bars and sold a million pairs of levi's to both sexes." Although he produced dozens of semi-autobiographical books, it is as icon and author of On The Road, which he claimed to have written in three weeks, that Jack Kerouac is remembered. The book published in 1957, is a largely autobiographical work that was written based on the spontaneous road trips of Kerouac and his friends across mid-century America. It is often considered a defining work of the postwar Beat Generation that was inspired by jazz, poetry and drug experiences.

Jack Kerouac

On The Road was written while Kerouac and his second wife, Joan Haverty, lived at 454, 2oth West Street (above). Kerouac typed the manuscript on what he called "the scroll", a continuous one hundred and twenty-foot scroll of tracing paper sheets that he cut to size and taped together. The roll was typed single-spaced, without margins or paragraph breaks. Contrary to rumour, Kerouac said he used no stimulants during the brief but productive writing session, other than coffee.

When the book was originally released, the New York Times hailed it as "the most beautifully executed, the clearest and most important utterance" of Kerouac's generation. The novel was chosen as one of the 100 Best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.
Kerouac (1922-1969) best summarised his take on humanity thus:-
"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles."

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