On the Road' again -- this time unedited
27-07-06 suggested by: Zé Vance
By David Perry
'Original scroll version' of Kerouac's masterpiece may be released next year
Jack Kerouac's On The Road, a classic, singularly American road novel and the quintessential work of the Beat Generation, will be published in its unedited "original scroll version," John Sampas said yesterday.
Sampas, the Lowell-based executor of Kerouac's literary estate, said he signed a contract Sunday with the New York-based publisher Viking/Penguin to publish the book, "hopefully" by the end of 2007.
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of On The Road. Viking Press was also the original publisher of the book, in September 1957. The book made Lowell-born Kerouac a literary celebrity. He died at age 47 in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1969.
"Incidents in the original were edited out of the published version because of the censorship of the time," says Sampas, who said that at least portions of the edited sections refer to drugs and sex.
"On the scroll, entire paragraphs are crossed out and not included in the published version," he adds.
The original, 120-foot scroll was purchased by James Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League, in 2001, for $2.43 million. On the road itself, the scroll is making it way around the country, with stops in select museums and libraries.
It arrives in Lowell next June, to be on exhibit for three months at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, part of a "Summer of Kerouac" in the city, celebrating the writer's life through music, film, poetry, art and scholarly symposiums.
The scroll, smudged, coffee-stained and yellowed with age, was the palette used by Kerouac to produce the raw On The Road over a three-week period in 1951. Single-spaced and lacking margins and paragraph breaks, it is reflective of Kerouac's dedication to spontaneous prose, much as the lions of jazz improvised music.
The myth that Kerouac simply sat down and exhaled the book in three weeks is misleading, says Sampas.
Beginning in the 1940s, Kerouac kept copious notes of his travels with Cassidy, and the process of writing the book began five years before he sat down for the 21-day burst. He first mentioned creating a novel called On the Road in his journals on Aug. 28, 1948, says Sampas.
"And there were two heavily edited manuscripts that preceded the book's publication in 1957," says Sampas.
"People knew of his reputation for having typed the scroll out in three weeks, which he did. But it took him five years to write it," Sampas adds.
Sampas, the brother of Stella Sampas, Kerouac's third wife, said he has enlisted a group of four young Kerouac scholars well-studied in British and American literature to help edit the project. Sampas says he met them last October at UMass Lowell's Kerouac symposium, which takes place during the annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! Festival.
To see the latest on "Summer of Kerouac" and to learn about the fundraising effort to support it, visit .
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