[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.  – jbm 7/2017]

“Somebody had tipped the American continent like a pinball machine and all the goof-balls had come rolling to LA in the southwest corner.  I cried for all of us.  There was no end to the American sadness and the American madness.  Someday we’ll all start laughing and roll on the ground when we realize how funny it’s been.  Until then there is a lugubrious seriousness I love in all this.”

“Al Hinkle was a tall calm unthinking fellow who was completely ready to do anything Neal asked him; and at this time Neal was too busy for scruples.”

“The madness of Neal had bloomed into a weird flower.”

“And all this time Neal was tremendously excited about everything he saw, everything he talked about, every detail of every moment that transpired.  He was out of his mind with real belief…Everything is fine, God exists, we know time.  Everything since the Greeks has been predicted wrong.  You can’t make it with geometry and geometrical systems of thinking.  It’s all THIS!”

“I had never dreamed that Neal would become a mystic.  These were the first days of his mysticism which would lead to the strange ragged W.C. Fields saintliness of his later days.”

“The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced – though we hate to admit it – in death.  But who wants to die?”

“There were wild Negro queers, sullen guys with guns, shiv-packing seamen, thin non-committal junkies, and an occasional well-dressed middle-aged detective posing as a bookie and hanging around half for interest and half for duty.”

“…old bum Neal Cassady the Barber, riding freights, working as a scullion in railroad cookshacks, stumbling, down-crashing in wino alley nights, expiring on coal piles, dropping his yellowed teeth one by one in the gutters of the West.”

“The American police are involved in psychological warfare against those Americans who don’t frighten them with imposing papers and threats.  There’s no defense.  Poor people have to expect to have their lives interfered with ad infinitum by these neurotic busybodies.  It’s a Victorian police force; it peers out of musty windows and wants to inquire about everything and can make crimes if the crimes don’t exist to their satisfaction.”

“The air was so sweet in New Orleans it seemed to come in soft bandannas; and you could smell the river, and really smell the people, and muds, and molasses and every kind of tropical exfoliation with your nose suddenly removed from the dry-ices of a northern winter.  We bounced in our seats.”

“Bill Burroughs; let’s just say he was a teacher, and had every right to teach because he learned all the time; and the things he learned were the facts of life, not out of necessity but because he wanted to…His chief hate was Washington bureaucracy; second to that, Liberals; also cops…We’d all learned from him…his mad bony skull with its strange youthfulness and fire—a Kansas minister with exotic phenomenal fires and mysteries.”

“Port Allen—Poor Allen—where the river’s all rain and roses in a mist pinpoint darkness and where we swung around a circular drive in yellow foglight and suddenly saw the great black body below a bridge and crossed eternity again.”

“And for just a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach and which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows, and wonderment in the bleakness of the mortal realm, and the sensation of death kicking at my heels to move on, with a phantom dogging its own heels, and myself hurrying to a plank where all the Angels dove off and flew into infinity.   This was the state of my mind.  I thought I was going to die the very next moment.  But I didn’t…

“All I wanted and all Neal wanted and all anybody wanted was some kind of penetration into the heart of things where, like in a womb, we could curl up and sleep the ecstatic sleep that Burroughs was experiencing with a  good big mainline shot of M. and advertising executives in NY were experiencing with twelve Scotch & Sodas in Stouffers before they made the drunkard’s train to Westchester—but without hangovers.”

“I believed in a good home, in sane and sound living, in good food, good times, work, faith and hope.  I have always believed in these things.  It was with some amazement that I realized I was one of the few people in the world who really believed in these things without going around making a dull middlecass philosophy out of it.”

“It wasn’t anything but a sewing circle and the center of it was the culprit, Neal–responsible perhaps for everything that was wrong…That’s what Neal was, the HOLY GOOF.”

“What difference does it make after all?–anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven, for what’s heaven?  what’s earth?  all in the mind.”

“I’ve decided to leave everything out of my hands.”

“You wouldn’t say that Neal is happy would you?”
“He’s ecstatic—if that’s more or less than happy.”
“I should think it’s less.”

“Behind us lay the whole continent of America and everything Neal and I had previously known about life, and life on the road.  We had finally found the magic land at the end of the road and we never dreamed the extent of the magic either.”


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:  Carolyn Cassady