Jack Kerouac was born on March 12, 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts. He spoke a local dialect of French before he learned English.
The Dharma Bums is a 1958 novel by Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac. The semi-fictional accounts in the novel are based upon events that occurred years after the events of On the Road. The main characters are the narrator Ray Smith, based on Kerouac, and Japhy Ryder, based on the poet and essayist Gary Snyder, who was instrumental in Kerouac's introduction to Buddhism in the mid-1950s. The book largely concerns duality in Kerouac's life and ideals, examining the relationship that the outdoors, bicycling, mountaineering, hiking and hitchhiking through the West had with his "city life" of jazz clubs, poetry readings, and drunken parties.
Ray Smith's story is driven by Japhy, whose penchant for the simple life and Zen Buddhism greatly influenced Kerouac on the eve of the sudden and unpredicted success of On the Road. The action shifts between the events of Smith and Ryder's "city life," such as three-day parties and enactments of the Buddhist "Yab-Yum" rituals, to the sublime and peaceful imagery where Kerouac seeks a type of transcendence. The novel concludes with a change in narrative style, with Kerouac working alone as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak (adjacent to Hozomeen Mountain), in what would soon be declared North Cascades National Park (see also Desolation Angels). These elements place The Dharma Bums at a critical junction foreshadowing the consciousness-probing works of several authors in the 1960s such as Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey.][
One episode in the book features Smith, Ryder and Henry Morley (based on real-life friend John Montgomery) climbing Matterhorn Peak in California. It tells the story of Kerouac's first introduction to this type of mountaineering and would serve as inspiration for him to spend the following summer as a fire lookout for the United States Forest Service on Desolation Peak in Washington. The novel also gives an account of the legendary 1955 Six Gallery reading, where Allen Ginsberg gave a debut presentation of his poem "Howl" (changed to "Wail" in the book), and other authors such as Snyder, Kenneth Rexroth, Michael McClure, and Philip Whalen performed.
Kerouac often based his fictional characters on friends and family.
Some reviewers criticized Dharma Bums for being spiritually crude and lacking seriousness. Ruth Fuller Sasaki found it a good portrait of Snyder, but thought Kerouac knew nothing about Buddhism. She wrote to Snyder, "His Buddhism is the most garbled and mistaken I have read in many a day ... I think everyone grants Kerouac's sensitivity of reaction and his ability to vividly write those reactions. I found the first mountain climbing episode quite exciting. But as a novelist he shows no talent whatsoever and no imagination." Alan Watts discounted it as "Beat Zen": "a shade too self-conscious, too subjective, and too strident to have the flavor of Zen."
Snyder wrote Kerouac, "Dharma Bums is a beautiful book, & I am amazed & touched that you should say so many nice things about me because that period was for me really a great process of learning from you...." but confided to Philip Whalen, "I do wish Jack had taken more trouble to smooth out dialogues, etc. Transitions are rather abrupt sometimes." Later, Snyder chided Kerouac for the book's misogynistic interpretation of Buddhism.
Doctor Sax (Doctor Sax: Faust Part Three) is a novel by Jack Kerouac published in 1959. Kerouac wrote it in 1952 while living with William S. Burroughs in Mexico City.
The novel begins with Jackie Duluoz, based on Kerouac himself, relating a dream in which he finds himself in Lowell, Massachusetts, his childhood home town. Prompted by this dream, he recollects the story of his childhood of warm browns and sepia tones, along with his shrouded childhood fantasies, which have become inextricable from the memories.
The fantasies pertain to a castle in Lowell atop a muted green hill that Jackie calls Snake Hill. Underneath the misty grey castle, the Great World Snake sleeps. Various vampires, monsters, gnomes, werewolves, and dark magicians from all over the world gather to the mansion with the intention of awakening the Snake so that it will devour the entire world (although a small minority of them, derisively called "Dovists," believe that the Snake is merely "a husk of doves," and when it awakens it will burst open, releasing thousands of lace white doves. This myth is also present in a story told by Kerouac's character, Sal Paradise, in On the Road).
The eponymous Doctor Sax, also part of Jackie's fantasy world, is a dark but ultimately friendly figure with a shrouded black cape, an inky black slouch hat, a haunting laugh, and a "disease of the night" called Visagus Nightsoil that causes his skin to turn mossy green at night. Sax, who also came to Lowell because of the Great World Snake, lives in the forest in the neighboring town of Dracut, where he conducts various alchemical experiments, attempting to concoct a potion to destroy the Snake when it awakens.
When the Snake is finally awakened, Doctor Sax uses his potion on the Snake, but the potion fails to do any damage. Sax, defeated, discards his shadowy black costume and watches the events unfold as an ordinary man. As the Snake prepares to destroy the world, all seems lost until an enormous night colored bird, an ancient counterpart of the Snake, suddenly appears. Seizing the Snake in its beak, the bird flies upward into the heartbreakingly blue sky until it vanishes from view, leading the amazed Sax to muse, "I'll be damned, the universe disposes of its own evil!"
Kerouac often based his fictional characters on friends and family.
Kerouac also wrote a screenplay adaptation of the novel entitled Doctor Sax and the Great World Snake. It was never filmed, but in 1998, Kerouac's nephew Jim Sampas discovered the text in Kerouac's archives. He proceeded to produce the piece in audio form, much like a radio drama, and release it in 2003 from his independent record label, Gallery Six (named for the site of the famous Six Gallery reading). The release consisted of two CDs and a book containing the screenplay with illustrations by Richard Sala.
Robert Creeley: narration
Jim Carroll: Jackie Duluoz, Count Condu
Robert Hunter: Doctor Bill Janovitz
Doctor Sax appeared in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier by Alan Moore in a story written by Sal Paradise (from Kerouac's On the Road). He is mentioned as being the great-grandson of The Devil Doctor (because of the Doctor's creator, Sax Rohmer) and fights against Mina Murray, Allan Quatermain, Paradise and Dean Moriarty (who is the great-grandson of Manchu's rival and Sherlock Holmes' arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty).
Visions of Gerard is a 1963 novel by American Beat writer Jack Kerouac. It is the first volume in Kerouac's "Dulouz Legend". Unique among Kerouac's novels, Visions of Gerard focuses on the scenes and sensations of childhood as evidenced in the tragically short yet happy life of his older brother, Gerard. Kerouac paints a picture of the boy as a saint, who loves all creatures and teaches this doctrine to four-year-old Jack. Set in Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, it is a beautiful but unsettling exploration of the meaning and precariousness of existence.
Throughout the novel, Jack explores perspective and interpretations of the world - existence, reality, illusion - and through the death of his older brother Gerard Jack realizes the Truth that has been passed on throughout history. The title is consistent with that of one of Kerouac's other character-studies, Visions of Cody, which centers on his experiences with Neal Cassady. The novel inspired the title of Bob Dylan's song "Visions of Johanna" from his 1966 album Blonde on Blonde][.
Kerouac often based his fictional characters on friends and family.
Jean-Louis "Jack" Kérouac ( or ; March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969) was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation. Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel. He became an underground celebrity and, with other beats, a progenitor of the hippie movement, although he remained antagonistic toward some of its politically radical elements.
In 1969, at age 47, Kerouac died from internal bleeding due to long term abuse of alcohol. Since his death Kerouac's literary prestige has grown and several previously unseen works have been published. All of his books are in print today, among them: On the Road, Doctor Sax, The Dharma Bums, Mexico City Blues, The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, Visions of Cody, The Sea is My Brother, and Big Sur.
Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, to French-Canadian parents, Léo-Alcide Kéroack and Gabrielle-Ange Lévesque, of St-Hubert-de-Rivière-du-Loup in the province of Quebec, Canada. There is some confusion surrounding his original name, partly due to variations on the spelling of Kerouac, and partly because of Kerouac's own promotion of his name as Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac. His reason for doing so seems to be linked to an old family legend that the Kerouacs had descended from Baron François Louis Alexandre Lebris de Kerouac. Kerouac's baptism certificate lists his name simply as Jean Louis Kirouac, and indeed Kirouac is the most common spelling of the name in Quebec. Kerouac claimed he descended from a Breton nobleman, granted land after the Battle of Quebec, whose sons all married Native Americans. Research has shown that Kerouac's roots were indeed in Brittany, and he was descended from a middle-class merchant colonist, Urbain-François Le Bihan, Sieur de Kervoac, whose sons married French Canadians. Kerouac's own father had been born to a family of potato farmers in the village of St-Hubert-de-Rivière-du-Loup. He also had various stories on the etymology of his surname, usually tracing it to Irish, Breton, Cornish or other Celtic roots. In one interview he claimed it was from the name of the Cornish language (Kernewek) and that the Kerouacs had fled from Cornwall to Brittany. Another belief was that the Kerouacs had come to Cornwall from Ireland before the time of Christ and that the name meant "language of the house". In another interview he said it was from the Irish for "language of the water" and related to Kerwick. Kerouac, derived from Kervoach, is the name of one hamlet situated in Brittany in Lanmeur, near Morlaix.
Kerouac was referred to as Ti Jean or little John around the house during his childhood. Kerouac spoke French until he learned English at age six, not speaking it confidently until his late teens. He was a serious child who was devoted to his mother, who played an important role in his life. She was a devout Catholic, instilling this devoutness into both her sons. Kerouac would later say that his mother was the only woman he ever loved. When he was four, he was profoundly affected by the death of his nine-year-old brother, Gérard, from rheumatic fever, an event later described in his novel Visions of Gerard. His mother sought solace in her faith, while his father abandoned it, wallowing in drinking, gambling and smoking. Some of Kerouac's poetry was written in French, and in letters written to friend Allen Ginsberg towards the end of his life, he expressed his desire to speak his parents' native tongue again. Recently, it was discovered that Kerouac first started writing On the Road in French, a language in which he also wrote two unpublished novels. The writings are in dialectal Quebec French.
On May 17, 1928, while six years old, Kerouac had his first Sacrament of Confession. For penance he was told to say a rosary, during the meditation of which he could hear God tell him that he had a good soul, that he would suffer in his life and die in pain and horror, but would in the end have salvation. This experience, along with his dying brother's vision of the Virgin Mary, as the nuns fawned over him convinced that he was a saint, combined with a later discovery of Buddhism and ongoing commitment to Christ, solidified his worldview which informs his work.
There were few black people in Lowell, so the young Kerouac did not encounter much of the racism that was common in other parts of the United States. Kerouac once recalled to Ted Berrigan, in an interview with the Paris Review, an incident in the 1940s, in which his mother and father were walking together in a Jewish neighborhood in the Lower East Side of New York, recalling "a whole bunch of rabbis walking arm in arm... teedah- teedah - teedah... and they wouldn't part for this Christian man and his wife. So my father went POOM! and knocked a rabbi right in the gutter." His father, after the death of his child, also treated a priest with similar contempt, angrily throwing him out of the house after an invitation by Gabrielle.
Kerouac's athletic skills as a running back in American football for Lowell High School earned him scholarship offers from Boston College, Notre Dame and Columbia University. He entered Columbia University after spending a year at Horace Mann School, where he earned the requisite grades to matriculate to Columbia. Kerouac cracked a tibia playing football during his freshman season, and he argued constantly with Coach Lou Little who kept him benched. While at Columbia, Kerouac wrote several sports articles for the student newspaper, the Columbia Daily Spectator and joined the fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta. He also studied at The New School.
When his football career at Columbia soured, Kerouac dropped out of the university. He continued to live for a period on New York City's Upper West Side with his girlfriend, Edie Parker. It was during this time that he met the people—now famous—with whom he would always be associated, the subjects injected into many of his novels: the so-called Beat Generation, including Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, John Clellon Holmes, Herbert Huncke and William S. Burroughs.
Kerouac joined the United States Merchant Marine in 1942, and in 1943 joined the United States Navy, but he served only eight days of active duty before arriving on the sick list. According to his medical report, Jack Kerouac said he “asked for an aspirin for his headaches and they diagnosed me dementia praecox and sent me here.” The medical examiner reported Jack Kerouac’s military adjustment was poor, quoting Kerouac: “I just can’t stand it; I like to be by myself”. Two days later he was honorably discharged on psychiatric grounds (he was of "indifferent character" with a diagnosis of "schizoid personality").
After serving briefly in the US Merchant Marine, Kerouac authored his first novel, The Sea is My Brother. Although written in 1942, the book was not published until 2011, some 42 years after Kerouac's death, and 70 years after the book was written. Although Kerouac described the work as being about "man’s simple revolt from society as it is, with the inequalities, frustration, and self-inflicted agonies", Kerouac reputedly viewed the work as a failure, reportedly calling it a "crock [of shit] as literature" and never actively sought publication of the book.
In 1944, Kerouac was arrested as a material witness in the murder of David Kammerer, who had been stalking Kerouac's friend Lucien Carr since Carr was a teenager in St. Louis. William Burroughs was a native of St. Louis, and it was through Carr that Kerouac came to know both Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. According to Carr, Kammerer's obsession with Carr turned aggressive, causing Carr to stab him to death in self-defense. After turning to Kerouac for help, together they disposed of evidence. Afterwards, as advised by Burroughs, they turned themselves in to the police. Kerouac's father refused to pay his bail. Kerouac then agreed to marry Edie Parker if she'd pay the bail. Their marriage was annulled a year later, and Kerouac and Burroughs briefly collaborated on a novel about the Kammerer killing titled And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks. Though the book was not published during the lifetimes of either Kerouac or Burroughs, an excerpt eventually appeared in Word Virus: A William S. Burroughs Reader (and as noted below, the novel was finally published late 2008). Kerouac also later wrote about the killing in his novel Vanity of Duluoz.
Later, he lived with his parents in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens, after they also moved to New York. He wrote his first published novel, The Town and the City, and began the famous On the Road around 1949 while living there. His friends jokingly called him "The Wizard of Ozone Park," alluding to Thomas Edison's nickname, "the Wizard of Menlo Park" and to the film The Wizard of Oz.
The Town and the City was published in 1950 under the name "John Kerouac" and, though it earned him a few respectable reviews, the book sold poorly. Heavily influenced by Kerouac's reading of Thomas Wolfe, it reflects on the generational epic formula and the contrasts of small town life versus the multi-dimensional, and larger life of the city. The book was heavily edited by Robert Giroux, with around 400 pages taken out.
For the next six years, Kerouac continued to write regularly. Building upon previous drafts tentatively titled "The Beat Generation" and "Gone on the Road," Kerouac completed what is now known as On the Road in April 1951, while living at 454 West 20th Street in Manhattan with his second wife, Joan Haverty. The book was largely autobiographical and describes Kerouac's road-trip adventures across the United States and Mexico with Neal Cassady in the late-40s, as well as his relationships with other Beat writers and friends. He completed the first version of the novel during a three-week extended session of spontaneous confessional prose. Kerouac wrote the final draft in 20 days, with Joan, his wife, supplying him bowls of pea soup and mugs of coffee to keep him going. Before beginning, Kerouac cut sheets of tracing paper into long strips, wide enough for a type-writer, and taped them together into a 120-foot (37 m) long roll he then fed into the machine. This allowed him to type continuously without the interruption of reloading pages. The resulting manuscript contained no chapter or paragraph breaks and was much more explicit than what would eventually be printed. Though "spontaneous," Kerouac had prepared long in advance before beginning to write. In fact, according to his Columbia professor and mentor Mark Van Doren, he had outlined much of the work in his journals over the several preceding years.
Though the work was completed quickly, Kerouac had a long and difficult time finding a publisher. Before On the Road was accepted by Viking Press, Kerouac got a job as a "railroad brakesman and fire lookout" traveling between the East and West coasts of America to collect money, so he could live with his mother. While employed in this way he met and befriended Abe Green, a young freight train jumper who later introduced Kerouac to his friend Herbert Huncke, a street hustler and favorite of many Beat Generation writers. During this period of travel, Kerouac wrote what he considered to be "his life's work", "The Legend of Duluoz".
Publishers rejected On the Road because of its experimental writing style and its sympathetic tone towards minorities and marginalized social groups of post-War America. Many editors were also uncomfortable with the idea of publishing a book that contained what were, for the era, graphic descriptions of drug use and homosexual behavior—a move that could result in obscenity charges being filed, a fate that later befell Burroughs' Naked Lunch and Ginsberg's Howl.
According to Kerouac, On the Road "was really a story about two Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him. I found him in the sky, in Market Street San Francisco (those 2 visions), and Dean (Neal) had God sweating out of his forehead all the way. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY OUT FOR THE HOLY MAN: HE MUST SWEAT FOR GOD. And once he has found Him, the Godhood of God is forever Established and really must not be spoken about." According to his authorized biographer, historian Douglas Brinkley, On the Road has been misinterpreted as a tale of companions out looking for kicks, but the most important thing to comprehend is that Kerouac was an American Catholic author – for example, virtually every page of his diary bore a sketch of a crucifix, a prayer, or an appeal to Christ to be forgiven.
In late 1951, Joan Haverty left and divorced Kerouac while pregnant. In February 1952, she gave birth to Kerouac's only child, Jan Kerouac, though he refused to acknowledge her as his own until a blood test confirmed it 9 years later. For the next several years Kerouac continued writing and traveling, taking extensive trips throughout the U.S. and Mexico and often fell into bouts of depression and heavy drug and alcohol use. During this period he finished drafts for what would become 10 more novels, including The Subterraneans, Doctor Sax, Tristessa, and Desolation Angels, which chronicle many of the events of these years.
In 1954, Kerouac discovered Dwight Goddard's A Buddhist Bible at the San Jose Library, which marked the beginning of his immersion into Buddhism. However, Kerouac had taken an interest in Eastern thought in 1946 when he read Heinrich Zimmer's Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Kerouac's stance on eastern texts then differed from when he took it up again in the early to mid-1950s. In 1955 Kerouac wrote a biography of Siddhartha Gautama, titled Wake Up, which was unpublished during his lifetime but eventually serialised in Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, 1993–95. It was published by Viking in September 2008.
Politically, Kerouac found enemies on both sides of the spectrum, the right disdaining his association with drugs and sexual libertinism and the left contemptuous of his anti-communism and Catholicism; characteristically he watched the 1954 Senate McCarthy hearings smoking cannabis and rooting for the anti-communist crusader, Senator Joe McCarthy. In Desolation Angels he wrote, "when I went to Columbia all they tried to teach us was Marx, as if I cared" (considering Marxism, like Freudianism, to be an illusory tangent).
In 1957, after being rejected by several other firms, On the Road was finally purchased by Viking Press, which demanded major revisions prior to publication. Many of the more sexually explicit passages were removed and, fearing libel suits, pseudonyms were used for the book's "characters". These revisions have often led to criticisms of the alleged spontaneity of Kerouac's style.
In July 1957, Kerouac moved to a small house at 1418½ Clouser Avenue in the College Park section of Orlando, Florida, to await the release of On the Road. Weeks later, a review of the book by Gilbert Millstein appeared in The New York Times proclaiming Kerouac the voice of a new generation. Kerouac was hailed as a major American writer. His friendship with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Gregory Corso, among others, became a notorious representation of the Beat Generation. The term “Beat Generation” was invented by Kerouac during a conversation held with fellow novelist Herbert Huncke. Huncke used the term "beat" to describe a person with little money and few prospects. "I'm beat to my socks", he had said. Kerouac's fame came as an unmanageable surge that would ultimately be his undoing.
Kerouac's novel is often described as the defining work of the post-World War II Beat Generation and Kerouac came to be called "the king of the beat generation," a term that he never felt comfortable with. He once observed, "I'm not a beatnik, I'm a Catholic", showing the reporter a painting of Pope Paul VI and saying, "You know who painted that? Me."
The success of On the Road brought Kerouac instant fame. His celebrity status brought publishers desiring unwanted manuscripts which were previously rejected before its publication. After nine months, he no longer felt safe in public. He was badly beaten by three men outside the San Remo Bar at 189 Bleecker Street in New York City one night. Neal Cassady, possibly as a result of his new notoriety as the central character of the book, was set up and arrested for selling marijuana.
In response, Kerouac chronicled parts of his own experience with Buddhism, as well as some of his adventures with Gary Snyder and other San Francisco-area poets, in The Dharma Bums, set in California and Washington and published in 1958. It was written in Orlando between November 26 and December 7, 1957. To begin writing Dharma Bums, Kerouac typed onto a ten-foot length of teleprinter paper, to avoid interrupting his flow for paper changes, as he had done six years previously for On the Road.
Kerouac was demoralized by criticism of Dharma Bums from such respected figures in the American field of Buddhism as Zen teachers Ruth Fuller Sasaki and Alan Watts. He wrote to Snyder, referring to a meeting with D. T. Suzuki, that "even Suzuki was looking at me through slitted eyes as though I was a monstrous imposter." He passed up the opportunity to reunite with Snyder in California, and explained to Philip Whalen, "I'd be ashamed to confront you and Gary now I've become so decadent and drunk and don't give a shit. I'm not a Buddhist any more." In further reaction to their criticism, he quoted part of Abe Green's cafe recitation, Thrasonical Yawning in the Abattoir of the Soul.
"A gaping, rabid congregation, eager to bathe, are washed over by the Font of Euphoria, and bask like protozoans in the celebrated light."
Many consider that this clearly indicated Kerouac's journey on an emotional roller coaster of unprecedented adulation and spiritual demoralization.
Kerouac also wrote and narrated a "Beat" movie titled Pull My Daisy (1959), directed by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie. Originally to be called The Beat Generation, the title was changed at the last moment when MGM released a film by the same name in July 1959 which sensationalized "beatnik" culture.
The CBS Television series Route 66 (1960–64), featuring two untethered young men "on the road" in a Corvette seeking adventure and fueling their travels by apparently plentiful temporary jobs in the various U.S. locales framing the anthology styled stories, gave the impression of being a commercially sanitized misappropriation of Kerouac's "On The Road" story model. Even the leads, Buz and Todd, bore a resemblance to the dark, athletic Kerouac and the blonde Cassady/Moriarty, respectively. Kerouac felt he'd been conspicuously ripped off by Route 66 creator Stirling Silliphant and sought to sue him, CBS, the Screen Gems TV production company, and sponsor Chevrolet, but was somehow counseled against proceeding with what looked like a very potent cause of action.
John Antonelli's 1985 documentary Kerouac, the Movie begins and ends with footage of Kerouac reading from On the Road and Visions of Cody on Tonight Starring Steve Allen in 1957. Kerouac appears intelligent but shy. "Are you nervous?" asks Steve Allen. "Naw," says Kerouac, sweating][ and fidgeting.
Kerouac developed something of a friendship with the scholar Alan Watts (renamed Dave Wayne in Kerouac's novel Big Sur, and Alex Aums in Desolation Angels). Kerouac moved to Northport, New York in March 1958, six months after releasing On the Road, to care for his aging mother Gabrielle and to hide from his newfound celebrity status.][
In the following years, Kerouac suffered the loss of his older sister to a heart attack in 1964 and his mother suffered a paralyzing stroke in 1966. In 1968, Neal Cassady also died while in Mexico.
Also in 1968, he appeared on the television show Firing Line produced and hosted by William F. Buckley. The visibly drunk Kerouac talked about the 1960s counterculture in what would be his last appearance on television.
On October 20, 1969, around 11 in the morning, Kerouac was sitting in his favorite chair, drinking whiskey and malt liquor, trying to scribble notes for a book about his father's print shop in Lowell, Mass. He suddenly felt sick to his stomach, which was nothing unusual, and headed for the bathroom. He began to throw up large amounts of blood, and yelled to his wife, "Stella, I'm bleeding." Eventually he was persuaded to go to the hospital and was taken by ambulance to St. Anthony's in St. Petersburg. Blood continued to pour from his mouth and he underwent several transfusions. That evening he underwent surgery in an attempt to tie off all the burst blood vessels, but his damaged liver prevented his blood from clotting. Kerouac died at 5:15 the following morning, October 21, 1969, never having regained consciousness after the operation.][
His death, at the age of 47, was determined to be due to an internal hemorrhage (bleeding esophageal varices) caused by cirrhosis, the result of a lifetime of heavy drinking, along with complications from an untreated hernia and a bar fight he had been involved in several weeks prior to his death. Kerouac is buried at Edson Cemetery in his hometown of Lowell and was honored posthumously with a Doctor of Letters degree from his hometown University of Massachusetts Lowell on June 2, 2007.
At the time of his death, he was living with his third wife, Stella Sampas Kerouac, and his mother, Gabrielle. Kerouac's mother inherited most of his estate and when she died in 1973, Stella inherited the rights to his works under a will purportedly signed by Gabrielle. Family members challenged the will and, on July 24, 2009, a judge in Pinellas County, Florida ruled that the will of Gabrielle Kerouac was fake, citing that Gabrielle Kerouac would not have been physically capable of providing her own signature on the date of the signing. However, such ruling had no effect on the copyright ownership of Jack's literary works, since in 2004 a Florida Probate Court ruled that "any claim against any assets or property which were inherited or received by any of the SAMPAS respondents through the Estate of Stella Sampas Kerouac, Deceased, is barred by reason of the provisions of Florida Statute §733.710(1989)."
In 2007, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of On the Road's publishing, Viking issued two new editions: On the Road: The Original Scroll, and On the Road: 50th Anniversary Edition. By far the more significant is Scroll, a transcription of the original draft typed as one long paragraph on sheets of tracing paper which Kerouac taped together to form a 120-foot (37 m) scroll. The text is more sexually explicit than Viking allowed to be published in 1957, and also uses the real names of Kerouac's friends rather than the fictional names he later substituted. Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay paid $2.43 million for the original scroll and allowed an exhibition tour that concluded at the end of 2009. The other new issue, 50th Anniversary Edition, is a reissue of the 40th anniversary issue under an updated title.
The Kerouac/Burroughs manuscript, And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks was published for the first time on November 1, 2008 by Grove Press. Previously, a fragment of the manuscript had been published in the Burroughs compendium, Word Virus.
Kerouac is generally considered to be the father of the Beat movement, although he actively disliked such labels. Kerouac's method was heavily influenced by the prolific explosion of Jazz, especially the Bebop genre established by Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and others. Later, Kerouac included ideas he developed from his Buddhist studies that began with Gary Snyder. He often referred to his style as spontaneous prose][. Although Kerouac’s prose was spontaneous and purportedly without edits, he primarily wrote autobiographical novels (or Roman à clef) based upon actual events from his life and the people with whom he interacted.
Many of his books exemplified this spontaneous approach, including On the Road, Visions of Cody, Visions of Gerard, Big Sur, and The Subterraneans. The central features of this writing method were the ideas of breath (borrowed from Jazz and from Buddhist meditation breathing), improvising words over the inherent structures of mind and language, and not editing a single word (much of his work was edited by Donald Merriam Allen, a major figure in Beat Generation poetry who edited some of Ginsberg's work as well). Connected with his idea of breath was the elimination of the period, preferring to use a long, connecting dash instead. As such, the phrases occurring between dashes might resemble improvisational jazz licks. When spoken, the words might take on a certain kind of rhythm, though none of it pre-meditated.
Kerouac greatly admired Snyder, many of whose ideas influenced him. The Dharma Bums contains accounts of a mountain climbing trip Kerouac took with Snyder, and also whole paragraphs from letters Snyder had written to Kerouac. While living with Snyder outside Mill Valley, California in 1956, Kerouac worked on a book centering around Snyder, which he considered calling Visions of Gary. (This eventually became Dharma Bums, which Kerouac described as "mostly about [Snyder].") That summer, Kerouac took a job as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the North Cascades in Washington, after hearing Snyder's and Whalen's accounts of their own lookout stints. Kerouac described the experience in his novel Desolation Angels.
He would go on for hours, often drunk, to friends and strangers about his method. Allen Ginsberg, initially unimpressed, would later be one of its great proponents, and indeed, he was apparently influenced by Kerouac's free-flowing prose method of writing in the composition of his masterpiece "Howl". It was at about the time that Kerouac wrote The Subterraneans that he was approached by Ginsberg and others to formally explicate his style. Among the writings he set down specifically about his Spontaneous Prose method, the most concise would be Belief and Technique for Modern Prose, a list of 30 "essentials".
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...
Some believed that at times Kerouac's writing technique did not produce lively or energetic prose. Truman Capote famously said about Kerouac's work, "That's not writing, it's typing". According to Carolyn Cassady, and other people who knew him, he rewrote and rewrote.][
Although the body of Kerouac's work has been published in English, recent research has suggested that, aside from already known correspondence and letters written to friends and family, he also wrote unpublished works of fiction in French. A manuscript entitled Sur le Chemin (On the Road) was discovered in 2008 by Québécois journalist Gabriel Anctil. The novella, completed in five days in Mexico during December 1952, is a telling example of Kerouac's attempts at writing in Joual, a dialect typical of the French-Canadian working class of the time. It can be summarized as a form of expression utilizing both old patois and modern French mixed with modern English words (windshield being a modern English expression used casually by some French Canadians even today). Set in 1935, mostly on the American east coast, the short manuscript (50 pages) explores some of the recurring themes of Kerouac's literature by way of a narrative very close to, if not identical to, the spoken word. It tells the story of a group of men who agree to meet in New York, including a 13-year-old Kerouac refers to as "Ti-Jean". Ti-Jean and his father Leo (Kerouac's father's real name) leave Boston by car, traveling to assist friends looking for a place to stay in the city. The story actually follows two cars and their passengers, one driving out of Denver and the other from Boston, until they eventually meet in a dingy bar in New York's Chinatown. In it, Kerouac's "French" is written in a form which has little regard for grammar or spelling, relying often on phonetics in order to render an authentic reproduction of his French-Canadian vernacular. The novel starts: Dans l'mois d'Octobre 1935, y'arriva une machine du West, de Denver, sur le chemin pour New York. Dans la machine était Dean Pomeray, un soûlon; Dean Pomeray Jr., son ti fils de 9 ans et Rolfe Glendiver, son step son, 24. C'était un vieille Model T Ford, toutes les trois avaient leux yeux attachez sur le chemin dans la nuit à travers la windshield. Even though this work shares the same title as one of his best known English novels, it is rather the original French version of a short text that would later become Old bull in the Bowery (also unpublished) once translated to English prose by Kerouac himself. Sur le Chemin is Kerouac's second known French manuscript, the first being La nuit est ma Femme written in early 1951 and completed a few days before he began the original English version of On the Road, as revealed by journalist Gabriel Anctil in the Montreal daily Le Devoir.
Kerouac's early writing, particularly his first novel The Town and the City, was more conventional, and bore the strong influence of Thomas Wolfe. The technique Kerouac developed that later made him famous was heavily influenced by Jazz, especially Bebop, and later, Buddhism, as well as the famous "Joan Anderson letter" authored by Neal Cassady. The Diamond Sutra was the most important Buddhist text for Kerouac, and "probably one of the three or four most influential things he ever read". In 1955, he began an intensive study of this sutra, in a repeating weekly cycle, devoting one day to each of the six Pāramitās, and the seventh to the concluding passage on Samādhi. This was his sole reading on Desolation Peak, and he hoped by this means to condition his mind to emptiness, and possibly to have a vision.
However, often overlooked but perhaps his greatest literary influence may be that of James Joyce whose work he alludes to, by far, more than any other author. Kerouac had the highest esteem for Joyce, emulated and expanded on his techniques. Regarding On the Road, he wrote in a letter to Ginsberg, "I can tell you now as I look back on the flood of language. It is like Ulysses and should be treated with the same gravity." Indeed, Old Angel Midnight has been called "the closest thing to Finnegans Wake in American literature."
In his book Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors, Ray Manzarek (keyboard player of The Doors) wrote "I suppose if Jack Kerouac had never written On the Road, The Doors would never have existed."
In 1974 the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics was opened in his honor by Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman at Naropa University, a private Buddhist university in Boulder, Colorado. The school offers a BA in Writing and Literature, MFAs in Writing & Poetics and Creative Writing, and a summer writing program.
From 1978 to 1992, Joy Walsh published 28 issues of a magazine devoted to Kerouac, Moody Street Irregulars.
Kerouac's French Canadian origins inspired a 1987 National Film Board of Canada docudrama Jack Kerouac's Road - A Franco-American Odyssey, directed by Acadian poet Herménégilde Chiasson.
In 1987, a song written by Marc Chabot and featured on a popular music album released in Québec by Richard Séguin, song titled L'ange vagabond, explores some aspects of Kerouac's life. Chabot associates Kerouac's incessant mobility to a quest for identity and respect from others, among other topics.
In 1997, the house on Clouser Avenue where The Dharma Bums was written was purchased by a newly formed non-profit group, The Jack Kerouac Writers in Residence Project of Orlando, Inc. This group provides opportunities for aspiring writers to live in the same house in which Kerouac was inspired, with room and board covered for three months.
In 2007, Kerouac was awarded a posthumous honorary degree from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
In 2009, the movie One Fast Move or I'm Gone - Kerouac's Big Sur was released. It chronicles the time in Kerouac's life that led to his novel Big Sur, with actors, writers, artists, and close friends giving their insight into the book. The movie also describes the people and places on which Kerouac based his characters and settings, including the cabin in Bixby Canyon. An album released to accompany the movie, "One Fast Move or I'm Gone", features Benjamin Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and Jay Farrar (Son Volt) performing songs based on Kerouac's Big Sur.
In 2010, during the first weekend of October, the 25th anniversary of the literary festival "Lowell Celebrates Kerouac" was held in Kerouac's birthplace of Lowell, Massachusetts. It featured walking tours, literary seminars, and musical performances focused on Kerouac's work and that of the Beat Generation.
In the 2010s there has been a surge in films based on the Beat Generation. Kerouac has been depicted in the film Howl and upcoming release Kill Your Darlings. A feature film version of Kerouac's seminal novel On the Road was released internationally in 2012, and is directed by Walter Salles, while being produced by Francis Ford Coppola. Independent filmmaker Michael Polish is directing Big Sur, based on the novel, with Jean-Marc Barr cast as Kerouac. Filming was done in and around Big Sur. The film is set for release in 2013.
In 2012, What Happened to Kerouac?, a re-mastered DVD of the acclaimed 1986 documentary, is being rereleased with a feature-length disc of new material from the original interviews. Those extras, called The Beat Goes On, include rare and unseen footage of Abbie Hoffman, Timothy Leary, Paul Krassner, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Steve Allen, Ann Charters, Michael McClure, Robert Creeley, Herbert Huncke, Carolyn Cassady, Paul Gleason, John Clellon Holmes, Edie Kerouac Parker, Jan Kerouac, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Father Spike Morissette. In June 2013 American Road, which features a substantial section on Kerouac, won the Best Documentary award at the AMFM Festival in Palm Springs..
While he is best known for his novels, Kerouac is also noted for his poetry written during the Beat movement. Kerouac stated that he wanted "to be considered as a jazz poet blowing a long blues in an afternoon jazz session on Sunday.". Many of Kerouac's poems follow the style of his free-flowing, uninhibited prose, also incorporating elements of jazz and Buddhism. "Mexico City Blues" a poem published by Kerouac in 1959 is made up of over 200 choruses following the rhythms of jazz music. In much of his poetry, to achieve a jazz-like rhythm, Kerouac made use of the long dash in place of a period. Several excellent examples of this can be seen throughout "Mexico City Blues":
Is Ignorant of its own emptiness—
Doesn't like to be reminded of fits—
Other well-known poems by Kerouac, such as "Bowery Blues" incorporate jazz rhythm with Buddhist themes of Sangsara, the cycle of life and subsequent death, and Samadhi, the concentration of composing the mind. Also, following the jazz/blues tradition Kerouac's poetry features repetition and overall themes of the troubles or sense of loss experienced in life.
The story of man
Makes me sick
I don't know why
Something so conditional
And all talk
Should hurt me so.
I am hurt
I am scared
I want to live
I want to die
I don't know
Where to turn
In the Void
Maggie Cassidy is a novel by the American writer Jack Kerouac, first published in 1959. It is a largely autobiographical work about Kerouac's early life in Lowell, Massachusetts, from 1938 to 1939, and chronicles his real-life relationship with his teenage sweetheart Mary Carney. It is unique for Kerouac for its high school setting and teenage characters. He wrote the novel in 1953 but it was not published until 1959, after the success of On the Road (1957).
Kerouac often based his fictional characters on friends and family.
Neal Leon Cassady (February 8, 1926 – February 4, 1968) was a major figure of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the psychedelic movement of the 1960s. He was prominently featured as himself in the original "scroll" (first draft) version and served as the model for the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's 1957 version of the novel On the Road.
Cassady was born to Maude Jean (Scheuer) and Neal Marshall Cassady in Salt Lake City, Utah. After his mother died when he was ten, he was raised by his alcoholic father in Denver, Colorado. Cassady spent much of his youth living on the streets of skid row with his father, or spending time in reform school.
As a youth, Cassady was repeatedly involved in petty crime. He was arrested for car theft when he was 14, for shoplifting and car theft when he was 15, and for car theft and fencing when he was 16.
In 1941, the 15-year old Cassady met Justin W. Brierly, a prominent Denver educator. Brierly was well known as a mentor of promising young men, and, impressed by Cassady's intelligence, Brierly took an active role in Cassady's life over the next few years. He helped admit Cassady to East High School where he taught, encouraged and supervised his reading, and found employment for him. Cassady continued his criminal activities, however, and was repeatedly arrested from 1942 to 1944; on at least one of these occasions, he was released by law enforcement into Brierly's safekeeping. In June 1944, Cassady was arrested for receipt of stolen property, and served eleven months of a one-year prison sentence. He and Brierly actively exchanged letters during this period even through Cassady's intermittent incarcerations; these represent Cassady's earliest surviving letters. Brierly, apparently a closeted homosexual, is also believed to have been responsible for Cassady's first homosexual experience.
In October 1945, after being released from prison, he married the fifteen-year-old LuAnne Henderson. In 1947, Cassady and his wife moved to New York City, where they met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg at Columbia University through Hal Chase, another protégé of Brierly's. Although Cassady did not attend Columbia, he soon became friends with them and their acquaintances, some of whom later became members of the Beat Generation. Carolyn Robinson met Cassady in 1946 while she worked in Denver, Colorado, as a teaching assistant. Carolyn would leave the Beat group shortly after walking in on Neal, Allen Ginsberg and Neal's wife at the time, LuAnne, in bed together. Five weeks after her departure, Neal got an annulment from LuAnne and married Carolyn on April 1, 1948. Her book, Off the Road, details her marriage to Cassady and recalls him as "the archetype of the American Man." The couple eventually had three children and settled down in a ranch house in Monte Sereno, California, 50 miles south of San Francisco, where Kerouac and Ginsberg sometimes visited. In 1950 he entered into a bigamous marriage with Diane Hansen, with whom he fathered one son, Curtis Hansen. During this period, Cassady worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad and kept in touch with his "Beat" acquaintances even as they became increasingly different philosophically.
Cassady had a sexual relationship with Ginsberg which lasted off and on for the next twenty years, and he traveled cross-country with both Kerouac and Ginsberg on multiple occasions.
Following an arrest during 1958 for offering to share a small amount of marijuana with an undercover agent at a San Francisco nightclub, Cassady served a sentence at San Quentin State Prison. After his release in June 1960, he struggled to meet family obligations, and Carolyn divorced him when his parole period expired in 1963. Cassady shared an apartment with Allen Ginsberg and Charles Plymell in 1963 at 1403 Gough Street, San Francisco.
Cassady first met author Ken Kesey during the summer of 1962, eventually becoming one of the Merry Pranksters, a group who formed around Kesey in 1964 who were vocal proponents of the use of psychedelic drugs. During 1964, he served as the main driver of the bus named Further on the iconic first half of the journey from San Francisco to New York, which was immortalized by Tom Wolfe's book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Cassady appears at length in a documentary film about the Merry Pranksters and their cross-country trip, Magic Trip, directed by Alex Gibney, released on 5 August 2011.
In January 1967, Cassady traveled to Mexico with fellow prankster George "Barely Visible" Walker and longtime girlfriend Anne Murphy. In a beachside house just south of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, they were joined by Barbara Wilson and Walter Cox. All-night storytelling, speed drives in Walker's Lotus Elan and the use of LSD made for a classic Cassady performance – "like a trained bear," Carolyn Cassady once said. Cassady was beloved for his ability to inspire others to love life. Yet at rare times he was known to express regret over his wild life, especially as it affected his family. At one point Cassady took Cox, then 19, aside and told him, "Twenty years of fast living – there's just not much left, and my kids are all screwed up. Don't do what I have done."][
During the next year, Cassady's life became less stable and the pace of his travels became more frenetic. He left Mexico in May, traveling to San Francisco, California; Denver, Colorado; New York City, New York, and points in between: then returned to Mexico in September and October (stopping in San Antonio, Texas, on the way to visit his oldest daughter who had just given birth to his first grandchild); visited Ken Kesey's Oregon farm in December; and spent the New Year with Carolyn at a friend's house near San Francisco. Finally, in late January 1968, Cassady returned to Mexico once again.
On February 3, 1968, Cassady attended a wedding party in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. After the party he went walking along a railroad track to reach the next town, but passed out in the cold and rainy night wearing nothing but a T-shirt and jeans. In the morning, he was found in a coma by the track, reportedly by Dr. Anton Black, later a professor at El Paso Community College, who carried Cassady over his shoulders to the local post office building. Cassady was then transported to the closest hospital, where he died a few hours later on February 4, four days short of his forty-second birthday.
The exact cause of Cassady's death remains uncertain. Those who attended the wedding party confirm that he took an unknown quantity of Secobarbital, a powerful barbiturate sold under the brand name of Seconal. The physician who performed the autopsy wrote simply "general congestion in all systems". When interviewed later, the physician stated that he was unable to give an accurate report, because Cassady was a foreigner and there were drugs involved. 'Exposure' is commonly cited as his cause of death, although his widow believes he may have died of renal failure.
In On the Road the narrator, Sal Paradise (representing Jack Kerouac) states, "He was simply a youth tremendously excited with life, and though he was a con-man, he was only conning because he wanted so much to live and to get involved with people who would otherwise pay no attention to him...Somewhere along the line I knew there'd be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me."
Ken Kesey wrote a fictional account of Cassady's death in a short story named "The Day After Superman Died," where Cassady is quoted mumbling the number of railroad ties he had counted on the line (64,928), as his last words before dying. It was published as a part of Kesey's 1986 collection Demon Box.
Cassady's autobiographical novel The First Third, was published in 1971, three years after his death. His complete surviving letters are published in Grace Beats Karma: Letters from Prison (Blast, 1993) and Neal Cassady: Collected Letters, 1944-1967 (Penguin, 2007).
Cassady was the model for the character Dean Moriarty in Kerouac's On the Road, and "Cody Pomeray" in many of Kerouac's other novels. In the surviving first draft of On the Road, which Kerouac typed on a 120-foot roll of paper specially constructed for that purpose, the story's protagonist's name remains "Neal Cassady." However, in Kerouac's final edition of On The Road, Cassady's character is known as "Dean Moriarty." One of the interviewees in the film Magic Trip states that Cassady was also the inspiration for the main character of Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Ginsberg mentioned Cassady in the notorious and critically acclaimed poem "Howl" (1955) as "N.C., secret hero of these poems." Cassady is credited with helping Kerouac break with his Thomas Wolfe-influenced sentimental style, as seen in The Town and the City, and Kerouac's discovery of a unique style of his own he called "spontaneous prose," a stream of consciousness prose form, first used in On the Road.
In Hunter S. Thompson's book Hell's Angels, Cassady is described as "the worldly inspiration for the protagonist of two recent novels," drunkenly yelling at police at the famed Hells Angels parties at Ken Kesey's residence in La Honda, California, an event also chronicled in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
Although his name was removed at the insistence of Thompson's publisher, the description is clearly a reference to the character based on Cassady in Jack Kerouac's works, On the Road and Visions of Cody. His name appears explicitly in the 50th anniversary edition of the original scroll of On the Road (On the Road: The Original Scroll, Viking 2007).
Cassady lived briefly with The Grateful Dead and is immortalized in "The Other One" section of their song "That's It For The Other One" as the bus driver "Cowboy Neal." A second Grateful Dead song, "Cassidy," by John Perry Barlow, might seem to be a misspelling of Cassady's name; in fact the song primarily celebrates the 1970 birth of baby girl Cassidy Law into the Grateful Dead family, though the lyrics also include references to Neal Cassady himself.
A New York City-based folk duo, Aztec Two Step, in their 1972 debut album memorialized Cassady in the song "The Persecution & Restoration of Dean Moriarty (On The Road)."
The Beat-inspired folk revival band the Washington Squares released a song named "Neal Cassady" on their 1989 album Fair and Square.
The Doobie Brothers guitarist and songwriter Patrick Simmons refers to Cassady in his song "Neal's Fandango" as his incentive for taking to the road.
The progressive rock band King Crimson released a song named "Neal and Jack and Me" on their 1982 album Beat.
Tom Waits composed and recorded a song named "Jack & Neal" (included in his 1977 Foreign Affairs album) about a trip to California, with Neal Cassady driving in the company of Jack Kerouac.
The Franco-American band Moriarty is named after the fictional character Dean Moriarty that Kerouac created from Neal Cassady.
Fatboy Slim produced a track, "Neal Cassady Starts Here," that appeared as a B-side to the singles "Santa Cruz" and Everybody Needs A 303.
Singer-songwriter Eric Taylor's 1995 song "Dean Moriarty" describes a character patterned after Neal Cassady.
Jazz guitarist John Scofield wrote a song called "Cassidae" [sic], released on his 1979 album "Who's who?"
On the Road is a novel by American writer Jack Kerouac. On the Road is based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across America. It is considered a defining work of the postwar Beat Generation with its protagonists living life against a backdrop of jazz, poetry and drug use.
The idea for On the Road formed during the late 1940s. It was to be Kerouac's second novel, and it underwent several drafts before he completed it in April 1951. It was first published by Viking Press in 1957.
When the book was originally released, The New York Times hailed it as "the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as 'beat,' and whose principal avatar he is." In 1998, the Modern Library ranked On the Road 55th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. The novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005.
Many aspects go into understanding the context of On the Road, and they must be viewed cohesively in order to appreciate why the book was as relevant and pertinent as it was. The following issues are important to consider as the foundation for the book and its reception by the public.
Kerouac was born in a French-Canadian neighborhood of Lowell, Massachusetts. He grew up in a devout Catholic home, and this influence manifested itself throughout the work. During high school, Kerouac was a star football player and earned a scholarship to Columbia University. After dropping out following a conflict with the football coach, he then served on several different sailing vessels before returning to New York in search of inspiration to write. Here he met the likes of Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs who would not only become characters in the book but also form the core of the Beat Generation.
Many of the events depicted in the book are the experiences that shaped both its content and production. Kerouac met Neal Cassady, who would become Dean Moriarty, in December 1946 and began his road adventures in 1947 while writing what would become The Town and the City. The adventures themselves, which took place between 1947 and 1950, were meant to help him overcome writers block during early attempts to write the book. It was through letters and other interactions with his friends that Kerouac decided to write the first person narrative that became On the Road as we know it today.
The publication process was another adventure unto itself, which took a major psychological toll on Kerouac. He was discouraged by the struggle (even though he continued to write during the period) and finally agreed to substantially revise the original version after years of failed negotiations with different publishers. He removed several parts in order to focus the story and also to protect himself from potential issues of libel. He also continued to write feverishly after its publication in spite of attacks from critics.
On the Road portrays the story of a fierce personal quest for meaning and belonging. This comes at an interesting point in American history when conformity was praised and outsiders were suspect. The Beat Generation arose out of a time of intense conflict, both internally and externally.
The issues of the Cold War, the Second Red Scare and McCarthyism took center stage of the cultural arena in the 1950s. As Americans bunkered down against communism at home and abroad, the sentiment of unifying and banding together led to extreme measures of censorship and control.
The Cold War was the backdrop for this fight. In a short time after defeating Germany, the Soviet Union fell from ally to threat in the eyes of the United States. In the postwar reconstruction process, the two powers found themselves continually at odds. The sentiment arose clearly as a struggle between two opposing ways of life. Contention over Soviet support for alleged communist revolution in Iran, then Turkey and Greece, led to the American policy of containment and the Truman Doctrine. Before a joint session of Congress on March 12, 1947, President Harry S. Truman stated, "I believe it must be the policy of the United States to support the people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures." That summer, Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed a plan for the economic reconstruction of Europe. While Western European countries planned how to go about rebuilding with American help, the Soviets walked away and forced the Eastern European countries to do the same. A Soviet aid and recovery plan followed for these countries and would mark the beginning of a punch and counterpunch pattern that would typify the early years of the Cold War. This laid a foundation for the tension that would define the period.
During this time, the Second Red Scare and fear of McCarthyism brought the culture of fear into the homes of average Americans. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), founded in 1938 by Congressman Martin Dies (D-TX), supported an attack on Hollywood professionals that resulted in a blacklist of writers, actors, and directors. The impact of the hearings, however, spread beyond Hollywood, and contributed to the sense of paranoia that paralyzed America in the 1950s. Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) added to this fervor when he began his crusade against communists he claimed had infiltrated the federal government. Starting with the State Department until allegations he made against military members brought him down, McCarthy used extreme tactics of argument to discredit professionals and ruin careers. This only extended the present culture of fear and reinforced the importance of conformity.
It was in this climate that some individuals of the young generation were seeking meaning outside the mainstream worldview. Amidst all the conflict and contradiction, the Beats were seeking out a way to navigate through the world. As John Clellon Holmes put it, "Everywhere the Beat Generation seems occupied with the feverish production of answers—some of them frightening, some of them foolish—to a single question: how are we to live?"
The idea of what it means to be "beat" is still difficult to accurately describe. While many critics still consider the word "beat" in its literal sense of "tired and beaten down," others, including Kerouac himself promoted the generation more in sense of "beatific" or blissful.
Holmes and Kerouac published several articles in popular magazines in an attempt to explain the movement. In the November 16, 1952 New York Times Sunday Magazine, he wrote a piece exposing the faces of the Beat Generation. "[O]ne day [Kerouac] said, 'You know, this is a really beat generation' ... More than mere weariness, it implies the feeling of having been used, of being raw. It involves a sort of nakedness of mind, and ultimately, of soul: a feeling of being reduced to the bedrock of consciousness. In short, it means being undramatically pushed up against the wall of oneself." He distinguishes Beats from the Lost Generation of the 1920s pointing out how the Beats are not lost but how they are searching for answers to all of life's questions. Kerouac's preoccupation with writers like Ernest Hemingway shaped his view of the beat generation. He uses a prose style which he adapted from Hemingway and throughout On the Road he alludes to novels like The Sun Also Rises. "How to live seems much more crucial than why." In many ways, it is a spiritual journey, a quest to find belief, belonging, and meaning in life. Not content with the uniformity promoted by government and consumer culture, the Beats yearned for a deeper, more sensational experience.
Holmes expands his attempt to define the generation in a 1958 article in Esquire magazine. This article was able to take more of a look back at the formation of the movement as it was published after On the Road. "It describes the state of mind from which all unessentials have been stripped, leaving it receptive to everything around it, but impatient with trivial obstructions. To be beat is to be at the bottom of your personality, looking up."
At the time of publication, On the Road was not the first book to criticize contemporary American culture. A nonconformist sentiment characterized the arts and popular culture of the 1950s as a way of rejecting societal norms. Many of the best selling books of the time achieved this same mission.
J. D. Salinger produced the first shock to the tranquil suburban landscape with the publication of The Catcher in the Rye in 1951. His protagonist Holden Caulfield struck a chord with young readers also at odds with the adult world. Caulfield's rejection of the regimentation and "phoniness" of the world around him resonated with the struggle for meaning that drove the Beat Generation. Salinger's rejection of traditional middle-class values signaled the first widely recognized public stand against the cultural conformist pressure.
Among the best-selling novels of 1950s was Peyton Place by Grace Metalious. Published in September 1956, it managed to be the second most sold book in the country that year and then to top the chart in 1957. In fact, it went on to be the best-selling book in American history up to that point. Often cited as the prime example of the decline in American culture of the decade, the novel examines the traditional values of a New England mill town by introducing the complications of extramarital sexual affairs. A book that received a broad range of reviews after publication, Peyton Place's popularity shows that popular culture was ready for a break from their traditional expectations.
Another popular contemporary was Sloan Wilson's The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1955) that dealt with the increasing suburbanization of American society. Tom Rath struggles with the dilemma of following his conscience or pursuing the big salary and lush lifestyle typically portrayed of the 1950s family. In the end, though, he discovers that he can have both. While Wilson can be seen as chastising the societal norms at times, he concludes with his character achieving them. This shows the dichotomy of attitudes toward the middle-class values of the day.
Kerouac often promoted the story about how in April 1951 he wrote the novel in three weeks, typing continuously onto a 120-foot roll of teletype paper. Although the story is true per se, the book was in fact the result of a long and arduous creative process. Kerouac carried small notebooks, in which much of the text was written as the eventful span of road trips unfurled. He started working on the first of several versions of the novel as early as 1948, based on experiences during his first long road trip in 1947. However, he remained dissatisfied with the novel. Inspired by a thousand-word rambling letter from his friend Neal Cassady, Kerouac in 1950 outlined the "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose" and decided to tell the story of his years on the road with Cassady as if writing a letter to a friend in a form that reflected the improvisational fluidity of jazz.
The first draft of what was to become the published novel was written in three weeks in April 1951 while Kerouac lived with Joan Haverty, his second wife, at 454 West 20th Street in Manhattan, New York. The manuscript was typed 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. In the following years, Kerouac continued to revise this manuscript, deleting some sections (including some sexual depictions deemed pornographic in the 1950s) and adding smaller literary passages. Kerouac authored a number of inserts intended for On the Road between 1951 and 1952, before eventually omitting them from the manuscript and using them to form the basis of another work, Visions of Cody. On the Road was championed within Viking Press by Malcolm Cowley and was published by Viking in 1957, based on revisions of the 1951 manuscript. Besides differences in formatting, the published novel was shorter than the original scroll manuscript and used pseudonyms for all of the major characters.
Viking Press released a slightly edited version of the original manuscript on 16 August 2007 titled On the Road: The Original Scroll corresponding with the 50th anniversary of original publication. This version has been transcribed and edited by English academic and novelist Dr. Howard Cunnell. As well as containing material that was excised from the original draft due to its explicit nature, the scroll version also uses the real names of the protagonists, so Dean Moriarty becomes Neal Cassady and Carlo Marx becomes Allen Ginsberg, etc.
In 2007, Gabriel Anctil, a journalist of the Montreal's daily Le Devoir discovered, in Kerouac's personal archives in New York, almost 200 pages of his writings entirely in Quebec French, with colloquialisms. The collection included ten manuscript pages of an unfinished version of On the Road, written on January 19, 1951. The date of the writings makes Kerouac one of the earliest known authors to use colloquial Quebec French in literature.
The two main characters of the book are the narrator, Salvatore "Sal" Paradise, and his new friend Dean Moriarty, much admired for his carefree attitude and sense for adventure, a free-spirited maverick eager to explore all kicks and an inspiration and catalyst for Sal's travels. The novel contains five parts, three of them describing road trips. The narrative takes place in the years 1947 to 1950, is full of Americana, and marks a specific era in jazz history, "somewhere between its Charlie Parker Ornithology period and another period that began with Miles Davis." The novel is largely autobiographical, Sal being the alter ego of the author and Dean standing for Neal Cassady. The epic nature of the adventures and the text itself creates a tremendous sense of meaning and purpose for the themes and lessons.
The first section describes Sal's first trip to San Francisco. Disheartened after a divorce, his life changes when he meets Dean Moriarty, who is "tremendously excited with life," and begins to long for the freedom of the road: "Somewhere along the line I knew there would be girls, visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me." He sets off in July 1947 with fifty dollars in his pocket. After taking several buses and hitchhiking, he arrives in Denver, where he hooks up with Carlo Marx, Dean, and their friends. There are parties — among them an excursion to the ghost town of Central City. Eventually Sal leaves by bus and gets to San Francisco, where he meets Remi Boncoeur and his girlfriend Lee Ann. Remi arranges for Sal to take a job as a night watchman at a boarding camp for merchant sailors waiting for their ship. Not holding this job for long, Sal hits the road again. "Oh, where is the girl I love?" he wonders. Soon he meets Terry, the "cutest little Mexican girl," on the bus to Los Angeles. They stay together, traveling back to Bakersfield, then to Sabinal, "her hometown," where her family works in the fields. He meets Terry's brother Ricky, who teaches him the true meaning of "mañana" ("tomorrow"). Working in the cotton fields, Sal realizes that he is not made for this type of work. Leaving Terry behind, he takes the bus back to New York and walks the final stretch from Times Square to Paterson, just missing Dean, who had come to see him, by two days.
In this section, Kerouac not only introduces many of the book's characters but also its central conflicts and dilemmas. He initially shows Sal as the deep thinking writer who yearns for greater freedom. As the plot unfolds he shows the depth and degree of Sal's internal conflict in the pursuit of "kicks," torn between the romanticized freedom of the open road and practicality of a more settled, domestic life. Dean appears as the "yellow roman candle" that catalyzes the action of the novel. His uncontainable spirit invites Sal to follow but also foreshadows problems of commitment and devotion that will reappear later on.
In December 1948 Sal is celebrating Christmas with his relatives in Testament, Virginia when Dean shows up with Marylou (having left his second wife, Camille, and their newborn baby, Amy, in San Francisco) and Ed Dunkel. Sal's Christmas plans are shattered as "now the bug was on me again, and the bug's name was Dean Moriarty." First they drive to New York, where they meet Carlo and party. Dean wants Sal to make love to Marylou, but Sal declines. In Dean's Hudson they take off from New York in January 1949 and make it to New Orleans. In Algiers they stay with the morphine-addicted Old Bull Lee and his wife Jane. Galatea Dunkel joins her husband in New Orleans while Sal, Dean, and Marylou continue their trip. Once in San Francisco, Dean again leaves Marylou to be with Camille. "Dean will leave you out in the cold anytime it is in the interest of him," Marylou tells Sal. Both of them stay briefly in a hotel, but soon she moves out, following a nightclub owner. Sal is alone and on Market Street has visions of past lives, birth, and rebirth. Dean finds him and invites him to stay with his family. Together, they visit nightclubs and listen to Slim Gaillard and other jazz musicians. The stay ends on a sour note: "what I accomplished by coming to Frisco I don't know," and Sal departs, taking the bus back to New York.
In this section, Marylou sums up the dilemma of Dean's lack of commitment and selfishness when she says that he will always leave you if it isn't in his interest. This central conflict appears again after Dean returns to Camille in San Francisco, abandoning his two travel companions. Sal again finds himself at a loss for purpose and direction. He has spent his time following the other characters but is unfulfilled by the frantic nature of this life. Much of the euphoria has worn off as he becomes more contemplative and philosophical.
In the spring of 1949, Sal takes a bus from New York to Denver. He is depressed and "lonesome"; none of his friends are around. After receiving some money, he leaves Denver for San Francisco to see Dean. Camille is pregnant and unhappy, and Dean has injured his thumb trying to hit Marylou for sleeping with other men. Camille throws them out, and Sal invites Dean to come to New York, planning to travel further to Italy. They meet Galatea, who tells Dean off: "You have absolutely no regard for anybody but yourself and your kicks." Sal realizes she is right — Dean is the "HOLY GOOF" — but also defends him, as "he's got the secret that we're all busting to find out." After a night of jazz and drinking in Little Harlem on Folsom Street, they depart. On the way to Sacramento they meet a "fag," who propositions them. Dean tries to hustle some money out of this but is turned down. During this part of the trip Sal and Dean have ecstatic discussions having found "IT" and "TIME." In Denver a brief argument shows the growing rift between the two, when Dean reminds Sal of his age, Sal being the older of the two. They get a '47 Cadillac from the travel bureau that needs to be brought to Chicago. Dean drives most of the way, crazy, careless, often speeding over 100 miles per hour, bringing it in a disheveled state. By bus they move on to Detroit and spend a night on Skid Row, Dean hoping to find his homeless father. From Detroit they share a ride to New York and arrive at Sal's aunt's new flat in Long Island. They go on partying in New York, where Dean meets Inez and gets her pregnant while his wife is expecting their second child.
After seeing how he treats Camille and Marylou, Sal finally begins to realize the nature of his relationship with Dean. While he cares greatly about him, several times discussing future plans to live on the same street, he recognizes that the feeling may not be mutual. The situations are beginning to change, though, as Sal has received some money from his recently published book and can begin to support himself and also Dean when he comes to New York. Sal is taking a more active role in his freedom as opposed to just following Dean.
In the spring of 1950, Sal gets the itch to travel again while Dean is working as a parking lot attendant in Manhattan, living with his girlfriend Inez. Sal notices that he has been reduced to simple pleasures — listening to basketball games and looking at erotic playing cards. By bus Sal takes to the road again, passing Washington, Ashland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and eventually reaching Denver. There he meets Stan Shephard, and the two plan to go to Mexico City when they learn that Dean had bought a car and is on the way to join them. In a rickety '37 Ford sedan the three set off across Texas to Laredo, where they cross the border. They are ecstatic, having left "everything behind us and entering a new and unknown phase of things." Their money buys more (10 cents for a beer), police are laid back, cannabis is readily available, and people are curious and friendly. The landscape is magnificent. In Gregoria, they meet Victor, a local kid, who leads them to a bordello where they have their last grand party, dancing to mambo, drinking, and having fun with prostitutes. In Mexico City Sal becomes ill from dysentery and is "delirious and unconscious." Dean leaves him, and Sal later reflects that "when I got better I realized what a rat he was, but then I had to understand the impossible complexity of his life, how he had to leave me there, sick, to get on with his wives and woes."
In this section we see Dean's selfishness finally extend to Sal, as he leaves Sal abandoned in Mexico City. Sal has sunk to the bottom of his reality having seen Victor put his family obligations over the freedom of the road and Dean was not ready to do the same thing. This is the moment where the paths diverge and Sal realizes that he has more to live for than just constantly moving.
Dean, having obtained divorce papers in Mexico, had first returned to New York to marry Inez, only to leave her and go back to Camille. After his recovery from dysentery in Mexico, Sal returns to New York in the fall. He finds a girl, Laura, and plans to move with her to San Francisco. Sal writes to Dean about his plan to move to San Francisco. Dean writes back saying that he's willing to come and accompany Laura and Sal. Dean arrives over five weeks early but Sal is out taking a late-night walk alone. Sal returns home to Laura and sees a copy of Proust and knows that it is Dean's. Sal realizes that his friend has arrived, but at a time when Sal doesn't have the money to relocate to San Francisco. On hearing this Dean makes the decision to head back to Camille and Sal's friend Remi Boncoeur denies Sal's request to give Dean a short lift to 40th Street on their way to a Duke Ellington concert at the Metropolitan Opera House. Sal's girlfriend Laura realises that this is a painful moment for Sal and prompts him for a response as the party drives off without Dean; to which he replies "He'll be alright". Sal later reflects as he sits on a river pier under a New Jersey night sky about the roads and lands of America that he has travelled and states ". . . I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty."
Kerouac often based his fictional characters on friends and family.
The main ideas of the Beat Generation, the longing for belief and meaning in life, are reflected in On the Road. While interest in the book initially revolved more around Kerouac's personal life rather than the literary nature of the text, critical attention has burgeoned in recent years. Although the book can be viewed through many lenses, several major themes rise up from a deeper study.
Kerouac has admitted that the biggest of these themes is religion. In a letter to a student in 1961, he wrote:
"Dean and I were embarked on a journey through post-Whitman America to FIND that America and to FIND the inherent goodness in American man. It was really a story about 2 Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God. And we found him."
This idea of an inward adventure is illustrated in all of the experimentation. The Beats had a more liberal definition of God and spirituality closely related to personal experience.
All of the travel and personal interaction in the book permit an examination of the ideas of masculinity and mobility in the 1950s. While these concepts may seem unrelated, Kerouac weaves them together to provide another form of rebellion against the social norm of conformity. Mary Pannicia Carden examines this and proposes that traveling was a way for the characters to assert their independence. "[Sal and Dean] attempt to replace the model of manhood dominant in capitalist America with a model rooted in foundational American ideals of conquest and self-discovery." Travel is a very symbolic act both in history and in literature of coming of age and self-realization, especially for males. But not only do they see conformity as restricting, but in many senses, they view women this way as well. "Reassigning disempowering elements of patriarchy to female keeping, they attempt to substitute male brotherhood for the nuclear family and to replace the ladder of success with the freedom of the road as primary measures of male identity." The interactions of the book come down to balances of power and gains and losses of masculinity. Even though they seek to defy its traditional markers, Dean and Sal also rely on this masculinity in their self-definition. In the end, their divergence to different paths reflects Sal's understanding of the limitations of complete freedom that is sought on the road in so far as it pertains to relations to culture and identity.
In a broader sense, On the Road's major lesson is about the proper way of growing up. Unlike Holden Caulfield, Sal Paradise is struggling with getting through adolescence and maturity rather than delaying it. We see this contrasted with Dean Moriarty who is portrayed as the depiction of a child, always on the move. Sal's struggle is how to balance these opposing forces. We saw these exact issues in Holmes's definition of the Beat Generation as a whole, of which Sal Paradise becomes the metaphorical face.
In addition to the themes and controversial topics addressed in On the Road, Kerouac's apparently erratic writing style garnered much attention for the novel. Some have said that On the Road was merely a transitional phase in between the traditional narrative structure of The Town and the City (1951) and the so-called "wild form" of Kerouac's later books like Visions of Cody (1972).
Kerouac's own explanation of his style begins with the publication of "Essentials of Spontaneous Prose" (1953) in which he outlines the core features of his techniques. He likens his writing to Impressionist painters who sought to create art through direct observation. He endeavored to present a raw version of truth which did not lend itself to the traditional process of revision and rewriting but rather the emotionally charged practice of spontaneity he pursued.
This spontaneity produced a book that was not only readable in 1957 but still captures the attention of audiences today. The personal nature of the text helps foster a direct link between Kerouac and the reader. Because he is writing about actual experiences, conveying appropriately the environment provided this connection. Kerouac chose to do this through his detailed descriptions, rarely pausing for a breath between sentences. His more casual diction and very relaxed syntax, although viewed as less than serious by some, was an intentional attempt to depict events as they happened and to convey all of the energy and emotion of the experiences.
The book received a mixed reaction from the media in 1957. Some of the earlier reviews spoke highly of the book, but the backlash to these was swift and strong. Although this was discouraging to Kerouac, he still received great recognition and notoriety from the work. Since its publication, critical attention has focused on issues of both the context and the style, addressing the actions of the characters as well as the nature of Kerouac's prose.
In his review for The New York Times, Gilbert Millstein wrote, "its publication is a historic occasion in so far as the exposure of an authentic work of art is of any great moment in an age in which the attention is fragmented and the sensibilities are blunted by the superlatives of fashion" and praised it as "a major novel." Millstein was already sympathetic toward the Beat Generation and his promotion of the book in the Times did wonders for its recognition and acclaim. Not only did he like the themes, but also the style, which would come to be just as hotly contested in the reviews that followed. "There are sections of On the Road in which the writing is of a beauty almost breathtaking...there is some writing on jazz that has never been equaled in American fiction, either for insight, style, or technical virtuosity." Kerouac and Joyce Johnson, a younger writer he was living with, read the review shortly after midnight at a newsstand at 69th Street and Broadway, near Joyce's apartment in the Upper West Side. They took their copy of the newspaper to a neighborhood bar and read the review over and over. "Jack kept shaking his head," Joyce remembered later in her memoir Minor Characters, "as if he couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t happier than he was." Finally, they returned to her apartment to go to sleep. As Joyce recalled: "Jack lay down obscure for the last time in his life. The ringing phone woke him the next morning, and he was famous.”
The backlash began just a few days later in the same publication. David Dempsey published a review that contradicted most of what Millstein had promoted in the book. "As a portrait of a disjointed segment of society acting out of its own neurotic necessity, "On the Road", is a stunning achievement. But it is a road, as far as the characters are concerned, that leads to nowhere." While he did not discount the stylistic nature of the text (saying that it was written "with great relish"), he dismissed the content as a "passionate lark" rather than a novel."
Other reviewers were also less than impressed. Phoebe Lou Adams in Atlantic Monthly wrote that it "disappoints because it constantly promises a revelation or a conclusion of real importance and general applicability, and cannot deliver any such conclusion because Dean is more convincing as an eccentric than as a representative of any segment of humanity." While she liked the writing and found a good theme, her concern was repetition. "Everything Mr. Kerouac has to say about Dean has been told in the first third of the book, and what comes later is a series of variations on the same theme."
The review from Time exhibited a similar sentiment. "The post-World War II generation—beat or beatific—has not found symbolic spokesmen with anywhere near the talents of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, or Nathaniel West. In this novel, talented Author Kerouac, 35, does not join that literary league, either, but at least suggests that his generation is not silent. With his barbaric yawp of a book, Kerouac commands attention as a kind of literary James Dean." It considers the book partly a travel book and partly a collection of journal jottings. While Kerouac sees his characters as "mad to live...desirous of everything at the same time," the reviewer likens them to cases of "psychosis that is a variety of Ganser Syndrome" who "aren't really mad—they only seem to be."
On the Road has been the object of much study since its publication. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of publication, several critics took a fresh look at the text in 2007. It is interesting to consider how the perception has evolved in the last half century.
David Brooks of the New York Times compiled several of these opinions and summarized them in an Op-Ed from October 2, 2007. Where as Millstein saw it as a story in which the heroes took pleasure in everything, George Mouratidis, an editor of a new edition, claimed "above all else, the story is about loss." "It's a book about death and the search for something meaningful to hold on to — the famous search for 'IT,' a truth larger than the self, which, of course, is never found," wrote Meghan O'Rourke in Slate. "Kerouac was this deep, lonely, melancholy man," Hilary Holladay of the University of Massachusetts Lowell told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "And if you read the book closely, you see that sense of loss and sorrow swelling on every page." "In truth, 'On the Road' is a book of broken dreams and failed plans," wrote Ted Gioia in The Weekly Standard.
John Leland, author of Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think), says "We're no longer shocked by the sex and drugs. The slang is passé and at times corny. Some of the racial sentimentality is appalling" but adds "the tale of passionate friendship and the search for revelation are timeless. These are as elusive and precious in our time as in Sal's, and will be when our grandchildren celebrate the book's hundredth anniversary."
To Brooks, this characterization seems limited. "Reading through the anniversary commemorations, you feel the gravitational pull of the great Boomer Narcissus. All cultural artifacts have to be interpreted through whatever experiences the Baby Boomer generation is going through at that moment. So a book formerly known for its youthful exuberance now becomes a gloomy middle-aged disillusion." He laments how the book's spirit seems to have been tamed by the professionalism of America today and how it has only survived in parts. The more reckless and youthful parts of the text that gave it its energy are the parts that have "run afoul of the new gentility, the rules laid down by the health experts, childcare experts, guidance counselors, safety advisers, admissions officers, virtuecrats and employers to regulate the lives of the young." He claims that the "ethos" of the book has been lost.
On the Road has been a major influence on many poets, writers, actors and musicians, including Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Jim Morrison, Hunter S. Thompson, and many more.
In his book Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors, Ray Manzarek (keyboard player of The Doors) wrote "I suppose if Jack Kerouac had never written On the Road, The Doors would never have existed."
Since the mobile lifestyle popularized by "On The Road" had a strong influence on the large market segment of baby boomers who joined the hippie movement the death of Jack Kerouac was of interest to the readers of the pioneering new journalism publication Rolling Stone. As a result, editor and publisher of the tabloid, Jann Wenner, printed a detailed account of the funeral of the "On The Road" author by writers Stephen Davis and Eric Ehrmann. According to the Rolling Stone article, Jack Kerouac's open casket viewing at the Archambault Funeral Home and subsequent burial funeral at the Edson Cemetery in Lowell, Massachusetts were attended by few of his "On The Road" era friends. Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty in the book) had died the year before in 1968. San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti chose not to come east to attend. Allen Ginsberg (Carlo Marx in the book) showed up with Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso was there filming the event. Author Terry Southern sent a floral arrangement that was on display near the bier. One writer in attendance not associated with the "On The Road" group or Beatnik crowd was New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin, who, like Kerouac, came from a humble, working-class background. Breslin, who had been touched by "On The Road" in his youth, journeyed up to Lowell to pay his respects, his feelings about Kerouac's appearing as part of the Rolling Stone coverage. Many writers, actors and artists including Ann Charters and Hettie Jones, inter alia, would later share their feelings about how they were influenced by "On The Road" and the Beat culture in the Rolling Stone Book of The Beats edited by Holly George Warren published by Hyperion in 1999.
In the Beastie Boys song, "3-Minute Rule", rapper Adam "Ad-rock" Horovitz makes a reference to having read "On The Road by my man Jack Kerouac". This book seems to be the influence for the lyrics of their song "High Plains Drifter", with lyrics about a man taking a cross-country trip by car.
In the episode "Fran Tarkenton" on the television show Weeds, it is revealed that Doug Wilson once carried a copy of the book with him. "It got me laid all the time." Another character, who claimed to have met Kerouac (within the show's universe), said "Jack would have loved that."
The original scroll of On The Road still exists. It was bought in 2001 by Jim Irsay (Indianapolis Colts football team owner) for $2.43 million. It has occasionally been made available for public viewing, with the first 30 feet (9 m) unrolled. Between 2004 and 2012, the scroll was displayed in a number of museums and libraries in the United States, Ireland, and the UK. It was exhibited in Paris during the 2012's summer to celebrate the movie based on the book.
A film adaptation of On the Road screened at the Cannes Film Festival on May 23, 2012 and was nominated for the Palme d'Or. Russell Banks wrote a screenplay for producer Francis Ford Coppola, who bought the film rights for $95,000 in 1980. The Brazilian director Walter Salles directed the movie. After seeing Salles's The Motorcycle Diaries, Coppola decided on Salles and the production is underway. In preparation for the film, Salles traveled the United States, tracing Kerouac's journey and filming a documentary on the search for On the Road. José Rivera adapted the book into a screenplay. Coppola's American Zoetrope is producing the film, in association with MK2, France 2 Cinéma, Canal+, Film4 in the U.K. and Videofilmes in Brazil. Sam Riley starred as Kerouac's alter ego Sal Paradise. Garrett Hedlund was cast as Dean Moriarty. Kristen Stewart was cast as Mary Lou. Kirsten Dunst will be playing Camille. Filming started on August 2, 2010. Filming took place in New Orleans, Montreal, Mexico and Argentina with a $25 million budget.
On 12 December 2007, BBC Four aired Russell Brand On the Road, a documentary presented by Russell Brand and Matt Morgan about the writer Jack Kerouac focusing on his novel On the Road. The documentary American Road, which explores the mystique of the road in US culture and contains an ample section on Kerouac, premiered at the AMFM Festival in California on 14 June 2013 when it won the award for Best Documentary.
Old Angel Midnight
The Town and the City