[I prefer the original scroll to the originally published edited version of Kerouac’s On the Road. Why? Because it is unadulterated Kerouac mainlined into your brain. That may sound like an exaggeration, but give it a try and see for yourself. Benefits of the scroll version: It contains people’s actual names instead of the clever pseudonyms. It offers greater exposition on thoughts, feelings, actions. In short, the original version is naked: warts and all; so that you don’t miss the meanderings or tangents Kerouac followed in the heat of his spontaneous writing frenzy, those that an editor chose to cauterize.
For me On the Road’s greatest merit is this: many millions of words have been written on thousands of subjects yet its so very refreshing to read a book that’s unashamedly just about living, experiencing and doing. Here’s a fresh version of On the Road and it’s well worth the trip.
“At one point Allen Ginsberg and I talked about these letters and wondered if we would ever meet the strange Neal Cassady…My first impression of Neal was of a young Gene Autry —trim, thin-hipped, blue eyes, with a real Oklahoma accent.”
“…I was beginning to get the bug like Neal. In all, what Neal was, simply, was tremendously excited with life, and though he was a con-man, he was only conning because he wanted so much to live and also to get involved with people that would otherwise pay no attention to him. He was conning me, so-called, and I knew it, and he knew I knew (this has been the basis of our relation) but I didn’t care and we got along fine.”
“Their [Ginsberg and Cassady] energies met head-on. I was a lout compared, I couldn’t keep up with them. The whole mad swirl of everything that was to come began then; it would mix up all my friends and all I had left of my family in a big dust cloud over the American Night…”
“…I shambled after as usual as I’ve been doing all my life after people that interest me, because the only people that interest me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing…but burn, burn, burn like roman candles across the night.”
“It was my dream that screwed up, the stupid hearthside idea that it would be wonderful to follow one great red line across America instead of trying various roads and routes.”
“I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, that I didn’t know who I was…I wasn’t scared, I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost…I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that’s why it happened right there and then that strange red afternoon.”
“I was getting drunk and didn’t care; everything was fine. My whole being and purpose was pointed at the little blonde’s middle; I wanted to go in there with all my strength. I hugged her and wanted to tell her.”
“I pictured myself in a Denver bar that night, with all the gang, and in their eyes I would be strange and ragged and like the Prophet that has walked across the land to bring the dark Word, and the only Word I had was Wow.”
“He saw in Neal the great energy that would someday make him not a lawyer or a politician, but an American saint.”
“I told them that I was thinking they were very amazing maniacs and that I had spent the whole night listening to them like a man watching the mechanism of a watch that reached clear to the top of Berthoud pass and yet was made with the smallest works of the most delicate watch in the world.”
“They were like the man with the dungeon stone and the gloom, rising from the underground, the sordid hipsters of America, a new beat generation that I was slowly joining.”
“We were situated on the roof of America and all we could do was yell, I guess—across the night, eastward over the plains where somewhere an old man with white hair was probably walking toward us with the Word and would arrive any minute and make us silent.”
“Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that the submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk—real talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.
“Beyond the glittering street was darkness, and beyond the darkness, the West. I had to go.”
“I suddenly realized I was in California. Warm palmy air—air you can kiss—and palms.”
“I dreamed at the sunny messboard. Rats ran in the pantry. Once upon a time there’d been a blue-eyed sea captain dining in here. Now his bones were wove with immemorial pearls.”
“Lonely Frisco for me then—which would buzz a few years later when my soul got stranger. Now I was only a youth on the mountain.”
“There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like wash lines and empty-souled—at least that’s what I thought then. I’d learn better later. Now it was time to pursue my moon along.”
“Soon it got dusk, a grapey dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.”
“A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world of ours.”
“I never felt sadder in my life. L.A. is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities; New York gets godawful cold in the winter but there’s a feeling of whacky comradeship somewhere in some streets. L.A. is a jungle.”
“Ah it was a fine night, a warm night, a wine drinking night, a moony night, and a night to hug your girl and talk and spit and be heavengoing. This we did.”
“We turned at a dozen paces, for love is a duel, and looked at each other for the last time.”
“…this was my last night in Hollywood and I was spreading mustard on my lap in back of a parkinglot john.”
Copyright: 2007, John Sampas, Literary Representative, the Estate of Stella Sampas Kerouac; John Lash, Executor of the Estate of Jan Kerouac, Nancy Bump; and Anthony M. Sampas.
My thoughts on Kerouac: https://walkcheerfullyblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/writers-i-like/
Author bio: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jack-Kerouac
photo: Kerouac Films