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On the Road: the Original Scroll Hardcover – August 16, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 1,400 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The legendary 1951 scroll draft of On the Road, published word for word as Kerouac originally composed it

Though Jack Kerouac began thinking about the novel that was to become On the Road as early as 1947, it was not until three weeks in April 1951, in an apartment on West Twentieth Street in Manhattan, that he wrote the first full draft that was satisfactory to him. Typed out as one long, single-spaced paragraph on eight long sheets of tracing paper that he later taped together to form a 120-foot scroll, this document is among the most significant, celebrated, and provocative artifacts in contemporary American literary history. It represents the first full expression of Kerouac's revolutionary aesthetic, the identifiable point at which his thematic vision and narrative voice came together in a sustained burst of creative energy. It was also part of a wider vital experimentation in the American literary, musical, and visual arts in the post-World War II period.

It was not until more than six years later, and several new drafts, that Viking published, in 1957, the novel known to us today. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of On the Road, Viking will publish the 1951 scroll in a standard book format. The differences between the two versions are principally ones of significant detail and altered emphasis. The scroll is slightly longer and has a heightened linguistic virtuosity and a more sexually frenetic tone. It also uses the real names of Kerouac's friends instead of the fictional names he later invented for them. The transcription of the scroll was done by Howard Cunnell who, along with Joshua Kupetz, George Mouratidis, and Penny Vlagopoulos, provides a critical introduction that explains the fascinating compositional and publication history of On the Road and anchors the text in its historical, political, and social context.

Celebrating 50 Years of On the Road

A 50th anniversary hardcover edition of Kerouac's classic novel that defined a generation. On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope, a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up.
Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think): John Leland, author of Hip: A History argues that On the Road still matters not for its youthful rebellion but because it is full of lessons about how to grow up.


From the back cover of On the Road: The Original Scroll: Jack Kerouac displaying one of his later scroll manuscripts, most likely The Dharma Bums


Kerouac's map of his first hitchhiking trip, July-October 1947 (click image to see the full map)

Original New York Times review of On the Road (click image to see the full review)

From Publishers Weekly

In introducing the fabled first draft of Kerouac's autobiographical novel-written on a single giant roll of paper, without breaks in the text, in an amphetamine-fueled marathon-editor Howard Cunnell refers to Allen Ginsberg's claim that "the published novel is not at all like the wild book Kerouac typed in '51." Characters are identified by their real names (rather than the 1957 version's apt pseudonyms) and their love affairs are more explicit, giving the book a juicy memoir-like feel, especially where Cassady and Ginsberg are concerned. The plot, however, is identical. Neal Cassady joins Kerouac and Ginsberg's bohemian circle in New York in the late 1940's, and inspires and cons them into traveling around the country, "searching for a lost inheritance, for fathers, for family, for home, even for America." The death of Kerouac's father plays a larger role in the story than in the 1957 version; and Justin W. Brierly, a teacher who served as mentor to Cassady and has a cameo in the published book, makes a series of recurring appearances in the scroll. The lack of paragraphs or chapters emphasizes the breathless intensity of Kerouac's prose. The anniversary publicity will introduce this classic to a new generation of readers, and while the scroll probably won't displace the novel's more familiar, polished incarnation, it will be of keen interest to beat aficionados and scholars.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (August 16, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067006355X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670063550
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,400 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #322,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
On the Road - the original road trip. The book that took the Beat movement mainstream and fused literature and the youth culture inextricably in the 50s and 60s - presented here as the legendary scroll manuscript Kerouac initially produced. It's readable and electric. The act of reading this familiar and envigorating story anew makes it fresh again. The differences are small (in the scroll Kerouac uses real names instead of of the pseudonyms used in the published novel; the scroll is sexier and feels a bit edgier and more breathless) - but enough to make me experience it in a raw new way. Kerouac's quest for Cassady is a story that puts me in touch with what life's all about: freedom, friendship, creativity, partying, love - and the wanderlust questing nature of the human soul. It's never been more needed - or more pertinent.

This is a great way to reconnect with this great classic. If you've never read it, I wouldn't hesitate to read this over the published one. This version makes it easier to reconnect the novel's/memoir's action with history. Highly recommended
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Somehow I imagined the scroll to be an incomprehensible mess that editors had to sift through in order to create something that could be published as a novel. I was very far from the truth.

The Original Scroll is an example of excellent writing. Yes, it's missing paragraphs, but the style is sharp like a knife's edge. Kerouac's text has power to concentrate reader's imagination and then send it flying into a thousand of directions at once.

I think I actually prefer the scroll to the classic editions of On the Road. The scroll feels very real and easy to understand.
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Format: Hardcover
The 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's "On The Road" is commemorated by the release of three major volumes. They are a designated 50th Anniversary edition; "On The Road: The Original Scroll", the long-awaited controversial release of the uncensored 120-foot alleged "teletype roll" on which Kerouac blazingly blasted out his masterwork in just three weeks, six years before its publication; and a handsome Library of America edition, "Jack Kerouac: Road Novels 1957-1960", edited with textual notes by historian Douglas Brinkley, featuring Road and four other of his best known novels along with selections from his journals. (See separate review).
Whether this literary blitz will lead to a grand revival of interest in Kerouac's work by both old and new generations has yet to be seen. But it secures his reputation as a major American writer because his voice resonates with the great poignant prose of Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and John Steinbeck, celebrating the wonders and adventures of youthful travels on the open road. In the book's first major favorable review, Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times praised "On The Road" as being to the Beat Generation what Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" was to its precedent bohemian Lost Generation.
Millions of readers and generations of authors have been influenced by the "On The Road", typically discovered by readers in their adolescence. Almost everyone who has read the book remembers when and where they first encountered it, the way one indelibly recalls the loss of virginity.
Praise for Kerouac's work is far from universal.
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Format: Paperback
Published in 1957, this autobiographical novel by Jack Kerouac captured the spirit that was seething underneath 1950s conformity. Myth has it that he typed it non-stop for three weeks, using one long continuous sheet of paper. I understand it went through several drafts after that but it still holds the immediacy of that marathon typing session, the staccato rhythm of the words creating improvised rhythm across the page with little, if any punctuation.

The narrator, Sal Paradise, is on an epic quest, one that takes him back and forth across the country with Dean Moriarity who is based on the real-life Neal Cassady. Dean, the reform school escapee who specializes in stealing cars, is Sal's mentor. And it is the automobile that is their chariot, which keeps them constantly in motion. Dean's madness is glorified, as is his ability to do whatever he pleases. There are a lot of drugs in the book, but liquor seems to be their drug of choice. They leave the heroin for a character loosely based on the real William Burroughs. Women drift in and out of the story, usually as one of Dean's lovers who he treats terribly. Dean treats everyone terribly though, abandoning Sal on several occasions, once while Sal was suffering from dysentery while they were in Mexico. Sal, however, always forgives Dean, seeing him as a god-like hero, no matter what he does.

There's more to the book than the story though. The book is a trip, in every sense of the word. With the simple force of his writing, Kerouac took me on an adventure. With him I crisscrossed America, hitchhiking, walking, taking buses. With him I sat in a car driven by Dean Moriarity, speeding for hours at 110 miles an hour and not even thinking about a seatbelt.
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