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Kerouac’s Legendary 120-Foot Scroll

The story goes that Jack Kerouac wrote the original draft of On The Road in just three weeks and on a single 120-foot scroll of paper while living with his second wife in a Manhattan apartment on West 20th Street. All of that fueled by coffee and benzedrine, legend goes. He actually taped individual pieces of paper together to create the scroll.

Over the next 6 years, Kerouac would revise the text until On The Road was finally published in 1957. He wrote the scroll single space, without paragraph breaks. Also, of legend, the last few pages of the scroll were ripped because a dog named “Patchkee” ate them up.

Super rich guy Jim Irsay, who is the owner of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, bought the original scroll for $2.4 million in 2001. Since then, Irsay has made the scroll available for public viewing on several occasions. The picture to the left shows the scroll at the Boott Cotton Mills museum in Massachusetts in 2007.

Penguin Classics now says an edition of the novel based on Kerouac’s original scroll–published as it was before those grubby editors ever got their hands on it.

Anyway, cool thing. No one writes like this anymore, and it’s the stuff of legend.

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tenacity comes to mind!

    Liked by 1 person

    November 16, 2015
  2. I remember seeing it when I was in undergrad when it toured the country. It stopped at UNC Chapel Hill, or a portion was unrolled or something.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 16, 2015
  3. Far out. At the risk of narcissism, I tipped my hat to Kerouac the just other day in posting “Finding the Bluebird of My Heart.” What an ear he had. And that’s really all it’s about. It is the signal thing that makes a writer a writer, and the rest just newsprint and mere writerly “contract” novels ad nauseam. Thanks so much for bringing this back to our attention. It is an amazing scroll. and hope one day to be able to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

    November 16, 2015
  4. Reblogged this on .


    November 16, 2015
  5. I love what Truman Capote said about “On the Road”. “That’s not writing. That’s typing.”


    November 16, 2015
  6. yup yes


    November 17, 2015
  7. Have not read any Kerouac yet, but I believe his style and/or subject matter may be compared to another modern writer, Cormac McCarthy. I have only read two of Mr. McCarthy’s works so far, “The Road” and “Suttree” in that order. After reading the first I was reluctant to read the second but ended up enjoying it immensely for several reasons, not the least of which was a visit by his second ex-wife to the class in which it was discussed. The upshot of this vignette in relation to this post is that, as one might expect, is that one might conclude that many popular fiction writers can be described as eccentric, even by those who know and love them personally. I guess an author’s life doesn’t have to be unusual for his/her work to be successful, but clearly it doesn’t hurt!


    November 28, 2015

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