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Posts Tagged ‘Jack Kerouac

On The Road editor comments on Kerouac’s scroll

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Jack Kerouac holding the scroll manuscript of On The Road

Jack Kerouac holding the scroll manuscript of On The Road

The Scribbler has been keeping an eye on the news surrounding the original On The Road scroll manuscript by Jack Kerouac.

In response to the scroll’s exhibition in Birmingham (3 December), Howard Cunnell, editor of the novel’s 50th anniversary edition, has written to offering a deeper insight into Kerouac’s thought process as he wrote the manuscript.

The letter reads:

“It’s been widely known for a long while that On the Road is not an example of ‘spontaneous composition’. Kerouac made and wrote the scroll in the spring of 1951, as a response to his inability to finish a novel he had been working on for over two years. Many Kerouac scholars, including Ann Charters, Tim Hunt, Douglas Brinkley, Isaac Gewirtz, and myself, have demonstrated that Kerouac began writing On the Road as early as November 1948. He wrote a number of proto-versions in which he developed the themes of the novel, while in his journals he kept a detailed account of all the trips he made, with and without Neal Cassady, that became the story of the book. It was with these journals and notebooks by his side, and a ‘self-instruction list’ acting as a chapter guide, that Kerouac wrote the first full-length version of the novel in April 1951.”

As Louis Menand wrote in The New Yorker review of On the Road: The Original Scroll:

“Kerouac did not create the published book in a single burst of inspiration. It was the deliberate and arduous labor of years. Spontaneous composition is a technique Kerouac began developing in the late summer of 1951, after his friend, the painter Ed White, advised him to go out in the street like a painter and sketch, but with words. Kerouac used the sketching idea in his finest novel, Visions of Cody, written out of the revisions of the scroll manuscript and not published until after Kerouac’s death. Arguably the most noteworthy example of the technique is Kerouac’s fine novel The Subterraneans, written in three days and nights in 1953.”

It seems that Kerouac’s enigmatic writing style still has us intrigued 50 years on. A new debate has now risen; just how would Kerouac cope with modern day writing methods? Could anyone type for weeks on end using Microsoft Word or is it just the fact that Kerouac’s unique gift was that he could use a typewriter like an instrument, like the great composers could create magnificent seamless flowing movements.

The Freewheelin’ Jack Kerouac interviewed below:

What do you make of the retorts to the public displaying of On The Road? Is Kerouac not the groundbreaking author we thought he was? Would you ever consider writing a novel in one burst of inspiration? What are the pros and cons of that technique?

Words: Seamus Swords

On The Road in Birmingham

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The manuscript scroll of On The Road by Jack Kerouac (BBC)

The manuscript scroll of On The Road by Jack Kerouac (BBC)

The scroll manuscript of On The Road, dubbed one of the most important pieces of literature of modern times, is now on show in Birmingham. Jack Kerouac’s genre defining novel was typed out furiously on 120ft of tracing paper so he didn’t have to stop, with only the power of coffee keeping him going. Now 50 years after the book was published in the UK the Barber Institute in Birmingham is showing one of the world’s most valuable and celebrated manuscripts.

The exhibition’s curator Professor Dick Ellis has admitted there was a lot of competition getting the scroll, which ironically has spent most of its life on the road.

“We’re very excited indeed,” he said. “This is an iconic manuscript. It is a record of the huge effort Kerouac put into composing it. It was 20 days of typing 6,500 words a day, flat out, in spontaneous composition. He wanted to record things with the most possible accuracy using the spontaneous technique. His typewriter became a compositional instrument.

Truman Capote once accused Kerouac of typing rather than writing; I would say he was learning the ability of using the typewriter like a jazz instrument, like a saxophone. He also had an incredible memory. And he had great speed at typing, he became a lightning typist. He came to be able to use a typewriter in a way that has not been seen before or since. Kerouac said he wrote fast because the road was fast.”

Of the total 120ft of printed text around a fifth will be on show in a specially built cabinet. Although visitors may have to tilt the heads slightly to read parts of the script, Ellis believes that it will help give visitor an insight into what Kerouac was all about. The scroll was bought by Jim Irasy owner of American football team Indianapolis Colts and is currently on a worldwide tour of museums and galleries. The scroll will be on show in Birmingham until 28 January.

The Guardian yesterday produced a quality blog post discussing whether or not Kerouac would be able to cope with modern day writing tools such as Word. Have a read here.

Listen to Kerouac read from On The Road accompanied by pretty pictures of the man himself below:

Who will be going to Birmingham to see this amazing artifact of modern literature? Does anyone know of any other quirky ways of writing a novel? Would anyone consider writing a book by hand these days and if so, why?

Words: Seamus Swords

Lost beat novel ‘not worth the wait’

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And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tankes by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tankes by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs

The US press has been hard at work this weekend dosing the flames of hype that have been rising around one of the literary world’s most anticipated releases ever.

As previously reported on The Scribbler a long delayed novel co-written by beatnik founding-fathers Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs is finally available to buy.

The writing of and originally planned release of And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks was surrounded by scandalous mystery. Over 60 years ago, when Kerouac was 23 and Burroughs 30, the scholars were arrested by the New York Police Department for helping a friend cover up a murder.

After they were released and cleared of the charges the pair decided to collaborate on a novel based upon the case. While Kerouac was pleased with the work American publishers unanimously disagreed.

While some sources cite this as being the reason why the book was so delayed, others state a pact was made between the writers and the real killer, one Lucien Carr that the novel would not be published until Carr passed away in an attempt to protect his name.

Thus the manuscripts were locked away and remained unpublished until this month when Grove Press did the right thing and treated it to some long deserved daylight.

Associated Press writer Bruce DeSilva this weekend damningly wrote: “The characters are aimless, intellectual wannabes who spend most of the book engaging in vacuous conversations while wandering from one seedy apartment and bar to another in pursuit of sex, drugs and whiskey.

“It is impossible to work up much concern for what will happen to any of them.”

DeSilva also added: “The crime, with its bohemian characters and hints of paedophilia, was a lot more interesting in the newspapers of the day than it is in the novel.”

The said crime was one of passion. Carr, the son in a well-to-do family, had become the object of obsession for the victim David Kammerer who met Carr years earlier in St. Louis while working as his Boy Scout leader. Kammerer reportedly followed Carr to New York where the older man met his demise at the end of Carr’s scout knife. The murderer then filled his pockets with stones and sent him to the bottom of the Hudson River.

Carr quickly confessed to Burroughs and Kerouac who in turn did not call the authorities, in fact it is claimed Kerouac helped get rid of the murder weapon. Eventually Carr was brought to justice and was found guilty of second-degree murder but was only given a two-year sentence after his lawyer argued that the crime was committed in self-defence from homosexual, paedophilic predator. Carr served his term and later led a successful career as an editor. He died in 2005.

William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac relaxing

William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac relaxing

DeSilva believes while the crime caused a sensation in 1944 New York and gave the writers a lot to write about ‘they failed to do much with it.’

Describing the book, DeSilva said: “The story is plodding, the characters uninteresting and the writing listless, with few hints at the innovative styles that would later make these writers icons of the beat generation. Perhaps the book will be of interest to literary scholars, but Grove could have posted it on an obscure internet site and spared the rest of us.”

DeSilva goes onto to protest: “Kerouac and Burroughs changed the names of all the characters, including themselves. Inexplicably, they also changed the murder weapon, turning the delicious detail of the scout knife into a hatchet. As ‘Mike Ryko’ and ‘Will Dennison’, the authors take turns narrating the story in a hard-boiled style, trying to write like Mickey Spillane and making a mess of it.”

Kerouac and Burroughs may have made a mess of the book in one reporters eyes but fans of beat writing and contemporary literature should remain enthusiastic about a release by two of the world’s most renowned authors that has been a closely kept secret for some 60 years. Posthumous releases are always something to look forward to.

Keep it The Scribbler Blog for a review of the novel in the coming weeks.

To buy your own copy of And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks click here.

There’s a 71 minute documentary on Jack Kerouac below if you have the time and the patience to watch it, we did:

For a William S. Burroughs video cast your eyes below:

Has anyone read the book? What is your opinion of it? Is it on a par with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, regarded as one of the best pieces of crime writing ever produced?

Words: Dean Samways

Early Beat collaboration novel finally released

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Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac

Two of the beat generation‘s shining lights are having one of their earliest collaborations published. A young William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac were linked to murder which shocked New York; this unpleasant episode led the pair to write a debut which remained unpublished for years.

The book has been Beatnik‘s holy grail for many generations. It is seen as the book that started it all; bringing together two of the best beat writers. The book, named And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks, tells the tale of male friendship, gay obsession and murder, which went on to fascinate and inspire future generations of authors.

The reason it has taken over 60 years to be published fully is down to the man who was found guilty of the murder that shook New York. Lucian Carr was found guilty and after serving his prison sentence he re-invented himself as Lou Carr how got a job at the UPI news service and got married and started a family.

Kerouac always scared Lou Carr with attempts to get the book published. Kerouac wrote a fictional account of events using fictional names and then after his death his biographer Ann Charters brought up the murder in her book on Kerouac. In 1976 an article in New York Magazine included extracts from the book.

William Burroughs decided to help his friend sue the magazine and gain controlling rights over the book, after Burroughs died in 1997 his executor James Grauerholz visited Carr promising that the account won’t be published whilst Carr was alive. Lou car died in 2005 and after 60 long years waiting the book can finally be published.

And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks has been one of the eagerly anticipated releases in a long while. Although the story surrounding the books release may over shadow the book itself there is no doubt this will be met with baited breath by many beat generation fans cross the globe.

Watch Johnny Depp reading Jack Kerouac below:

Words: Seamus Swords