The Mythical Scroll

Today’s post takes us back to where it began, to the mythical scroll.

The 120-foot long manuscript of “On the Road,” completed in April 1951, published in 1957. Its success changed the life of Jack Kerouac forever and in some ways, took away the very freedoms and spontaneous road life he loved so much. No longer could he migrate around the country and to Mexico without recognition. Nowhere is this longing so beautifully described as in the Big Glorious Trip to Europe, described in Lonesome Traveler.

Other of his works that command reading are Big Sur, which to my mind captures the beginning of the dark end days, when he contends with and ultimately loses the struggle with his own nature, out of control; and also Satori in Paris, written in 1966 just before his death. It takes Kerouac to the places he considers his origins in France, and gives a last glimpse of the soul-searching brilliance that distinguishes his writing.

Today’s entry ends with that famous quote from “On the Road,” words that have not lost their force, even after five decades.

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 exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle, you see the blue center-light pop, and everybody goes ahh….

For a larger view of this manuscript page click here

ABOVE: Jack Kerouac. Private Ms. of Gone on the Road. Title page of an early version of On the Road, August–September 16, 1950. New York Public Library, Berg Collection, Jack Kerouac Archive. Reproduced courtesy of John G. Sampas, legal representative of the estates of Jack and Stella Kerouac.


5 Responses to “The Mythical Scroll”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    What a great way to wind up this wonderful study/appreciation/tribute to Kerouac. You really have given us a great glimpse into his life and work — not too much, just enough to whet the appetite and pique interest. Thank you. “Portable Kerouac,” here I come!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Thank you so much for these kind words. I am a little sad that Fiction Daily must return to routine blog posts. For several weeks Jack “Ti Jean” Kerouac has been an almost constant companion and now I’m on my own road again with my novel and short story projects. MB

  3. Anonymous Says:

    A bit like coming back from a two-week vacation, huh? And yet those days remind us how much we enjoy work at a very deep level, how energizing it can be, how we need the discipline of a routine most times and even drudgery sometimes. Five days off from the gym and I couldn’t wait to get back in there this morning: because it’s good for me, working the mescles feels great, it gives me a sense of healthfulness and accomplishment. Yes, it was nice to wake up a few mornings and NOT have to work out … but then I got anxious and even came to resent the enforced inactivity. Maybe you will find a similarly renewed energy in your blogging and fiction this week, not to mention inspriation from the example Kerouac set.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Gym … OMG … I haven’t seen the inside of a gym in days. Yes … you’re absolutely right that change can be invigorating. I find when I do the same things every day I have nothing to say in my writing. Often I will get my haircut for that reason … although one time I got carried away and ended up resembling Annie Lennox after too many haircuts. — MB

  5. Anonymous Says:

    OMG. I adore that quote and i LOVE jack kerouac. In the manner he said “I love Allen Ginsberg, Let that be recorded in Heaven’s unchangeable heart.”*. Help me talk my partner into letting us go to LOWELL to see the scroll SOON!?
    the frog

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