Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Jack Kerouac's On The Road.

Read On The Road (1948-1956) by the late Jack Kerouac (March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969), the "original scroll" version. Haven't heard of this book until recently and that was by chance as I was looking at another totally unrelated subject matter (denim, and from the photos I understand why the subject matter is somehow linked to fashion of the 40s and 50s). As I learnt, this book's incredibly popular and so's the author. It is a best seller back in mid 50 and supposedly defined the Beatniks or the Beat Generation.
According to Wiki, The Beat Generation is a term used to describe a group of American writers who came to prominence in the 1950s, as well as the cultural phenomena that they wrote about. Central elements of "Beat" culture include a rejection of mainstream American values, experimentation with drugs and alternate forms of sexuality, and an interest in Eastern spirituality. It is said that Kerouac described members of the Beat Generation sought a synthesis of the "beaten down" ~ "tired" and the "beatific" ~ a paradoxical connotations of "upbeat" and the musical association of being "on the beat", in summary, the Beat Generation was on the bottom, but they were looking up. Kerouac is identified along with late poet Allen Ginsberg (June 3, 1926 – April 5, 1997) and avant garde novelist William S. Burroughs (February 5, 1914 – August 2, 1997) both equally popular people whom I had heard of but never read any of their works and several others from that era as the pioneers of this culture. Kerouac was supposedly called the King of the Beat. Most of these individuals themselves were subjects to a majority of Kerouac's works, however, usually written with different names and thus were mostly semi-autobiographical. Kerouac's writing method is called "Spontaneous Prose", a literary technique akin to "stream of consciousness" which according to Wiki, means " a narrative mode that seeks to portray an individual's point of view by giving the written equivalent of the character's thought processes, either in a loose interior monologue, or in connection to his or her actions". It is also heavily influenced by Bebop jazz genre as well as certain elements of Buddhism.
Due to the popularity of this book, myths were abundant about how it was written. It was said that Kerouac wrote it non stop with plenty of amphetamines as fuels to get him going for nearly several weeks. However, it has since been corrected that Kerouac actually did re-write and edit it a couple of times before the final work came about, and with plenty of caffeine and nicotine in between. He did write it on a piece of "scroll", however, not a single roll of continuous paper (contrary to popular belief) but a self taped tracing papers couple of hundred feets long, cut to fit the feeder of the typing machine. This "scroll" was rolled up and presented to the first publisher he approached. On The Road originally contained quite a number of adult themes but was censored when it was published. This is restored on this version as well as the original names of the subjects in this work about Kerouac journey throughout America and his experience.

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