On the Road  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

On the Road is a novel by Jack Kerouac, written in April 1951, and published by Viking Press in 1957. This largely autobiographical work, written as a stream of consciousness and based on the spontaneous road trips of Kerouac and his friends across mid-century America, is often considered a defining work of the postwar Beat Generation that was inspired by jazz, poetry, and drug experiences. As the inspiration came from real life, hundreds of references in On the Road have real-world counterparts.

The book became an overnight success, and gathered an epic mythos that was worthy of its fame. As the story goes, On the Road was written by Kerouac in three weeks while living with his second wife, Joan Haverty, in an apartment at 454 West Twentieth Street in Manhattan, which he typed on one long scroll of teletype paper, which Kerouac called "the roll."Template:Ref label The roll does exist — it was purchased in 2001 by Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, for $2.4 million — and it was indeed typed in a blazing three weeks, with no margins, singlespaced, and no paragraph breaks. But the myth of the story overlooks some of the finer points of the novel's composition. Much of the book was actually written as it happened, over the seven years of Kerouac's travels, in the small notebooks that he always carried with him and wrote in during his spare time. The myth also overlooks the tedious organization and preparation that came before Kerouac's creative explosion, as well as the fact that Kerouac revised the novel several times before Malcolm Cowley of Viking Press agreed to publish it.

Owing to Irsay's ownership of the scroll, it was on display in sections at Indiana University's Lilly Library in mid-2003. In January 2004, the roll began a 13-stop, four-year national tour of museums and libraries, starting at the Orange County History Center in Orlando, Florida. From January through March 2006 it was on display at the San Francisco Public Library with the first 30 feet unrolled. It will spend three months on display at the New York Public Library in 2007, and in the spring of 2008 will be on view at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

As of 2006, the book is to be the subject of a forthcoming film, also titled On the Road. Walter Salles is signed to direct, and casting is scheduled to begin later in the year.

Viking Press hopes to publish an uncensored version of the book, containing elements that were deemed unsuitable when it was first published, by the end of 2007, the 50th anniversary of its original publication. Also, Viking plans to fulfill Kerouac's unrealized desire to "...reinsert my pantheon of uniform names..." or in other words exchange the pseudonyms used for the characters throughout the book for those used in the rest of Kerouac's semiautobiographical novels (known collectively as the Duluoz Legend), thus the opening sentence, "I first met Dean Moriarty..." would be changed to "I first met Cody Pomeray..." as the character based on Neil Cassady is called in other works by the author.

The film rights

The film rights for Jack Kerouac's first major publication "On the Road" was bought by Francis Ford Coppola in the first year of its publication, and is now being produced for cinema release in 2007. It was not until Marlon Brando's death, that letters from Jack Kerouac were discovered describing his own personal opinions as to how "On the Road" should be filmed.

[1] [Apr 2007]

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