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Jack Kerouac’s Scroll


photo credit :: Christie’s, New York

ON THE ROAD, like Stephen Hawking’s revised version of the universe, came about spontaneously through the hands of the ever-humble servant, Jack Kerouac. He cut up drawing paper and taped the pieces together to make a 120 ft scroll. He put the scroll into a typewriter and, 20 days later, produced the 1st draft of ON THE ROAD, a spiritual bible to anyone who espouses movement.

Jack Kerouac wanted to trouble himself only once with inserting and aligning the paper required for his autobiographical story. No interruptions after he started. Only an unimpeded downpour of words. This is what he called “spontaneous prose”.


Such a romantic idea. It almost seems like a lie, a myth that needs to be exposed. But no, ON THE ROAD is the 1st example of spontaneous prose: an incontrovertible fact to be read, loved, imitated and envied rather than exposed as a marketing ploy.

Jack Kerouac, if he were beating today, would agree with Stephen Hawking’s revised version of the universe because he understands everything is created through spontaneous generation. Absolutely nothing [except gravity, of course] is needed for creation, whether it be ON THE ROAD or the universe.

Well, that’s not entirely true in Jack Kerouac’s case. He kept some notebooks with some scribbles exploring what came to be ON THE ROAD. And he had the characters bouncing around in his mind starting 1948, about 3 years before officially beginning his 20-day world creation.

But, please, don’t let that strip away the elegance of his improvised jazz.

September 3, 2010 6:54 pm

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