Five decades after it was first published, Jack Kerouac's seminal beat novel "On the Road" finally finds its way to the big screen, in a production from award-winning director Walter Salles ("Motorcycle Diaries") starring Sam Riley ("Control, Brighton Rock"), Garret Hedlund ("Friday Night Lights"), Kristen Stewart ("Twilight"), Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams and Viggo Mortensen. Sal Paradise ("Sam Riley"), a young innocent, joins his hero Dean Moriarty ("Garrett Hedlund"), a traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat, on a breathless, exuberant ride back and forth across the United States. Their hedonistic search for release or fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz becomes an exploration of personal freedom, a test of the limits of the American dream. A brilliant blend of fiction and autobiography, Jack Kerouac's exhilarating novel swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, racing towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and autobiographical passion. One of the most influential and important novels of the 20th century, "On the Road" is the book that launched the Beat Generation and remains the bible of that literary movement. Jack Kerouac (1922-69) was an American novelist, poet, artist and part of the Beat Generation. His first published novel, "The Town and the City", appeared in 1950, but it was "On the Road", published in 1957, that made Kerouac famous. Publication of his many other books followed, among them "The Subterraneans", "Big Sur", and "The Dharma Bums". Kerouac died in Florida at the age of forty-seven. "The most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as "beat"' The New York Times 'Pop writing at its best. It changed the way I saw the world, making me yearn for fresh experience." (Hanif Kureishi, "Independent on Sunday"). ""On the Road" sold a trillion Levis and a million espresso machines, and also sent countless kids on the road." ("William Burroughs").
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.
Celebrating 50 Years of On the Road
| ||A 50th anniversary hardcover edition of Kerouac's classic novel that defined a generation. On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope, a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up.|| || |
| ||Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think): John Leland, author of Hip: A History argues that On the Road still matters not for its youthful rebellion but because it is full of lessons about how to grow up.|| |
| || |
From the back cover of On the Road: The Original Scroll: Jack Kerouac displaying one of his later scroll manuscripts, most likely The Dharma Bums
| || || |
Kerouac's map of his first hitchhiking trip, July-October 1947 (click image to see the full map)
Original New York Times review of On the Road (click image to see the full review)