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Monday, January 5, 2009

Back On The Road

I don't know anything about the Indianapolis Colts Football Team, but I do know that if I met the owner of said team, a certain Mr James Irsay, I would shake him warmly by the hand and thank him very much, for something that he did in 2001.

For on May 22nd 2001, in Christies Auction House in New York, Jim spent $2.2 million of his hard won dollars. buying the Original Scroll / manuscript of Jack Kerouac's Classic American novel "On The Road", and there by ensuring the survival of one of the most iconic manuscripts in existence.

On the Road was written in just three weeks,in April 1951, when Kerouac lived with Joan Haverty, his second wife, at 454 West 20th Street in Manhattan, New York.
Kerouac typed the manuscript on what he called "the scroll" a continuous, one hundred twenty-foot scroll of tracing paper sheets that he cut to size and taped together. The roll was typed single-spaced, without margins or paragraph breaks. He did this because he was able to type so fast he didn't want to have to stop to keep changing sheets of foolscap paper. Contrary to belief, Kerouac said he used no stimulants during the brief but productive writing session, other than coffee.
It was rejected by many publishers until it was finally edited and published by Viking, in 1957, a bittersweet act that gave Jack a lifelong but unmanageable surge of Worldwide fame.

The Scroll attained Mythical Status, until bought by Mr Irsay, where under his enlightened stewardship, it has been exhibited in the USA, and now finally in the United Kingdom.

In March 2008, i was thrilled to go and see the full 120ft of the Replica of the scroll in the Public Library of New York, along with a fantastic exhibition of Jack memorabilia. Being such a huge Kerouac fan, you can imagine then, my excitement when i learned that now, the original scroll would be exhibited for the two months of December and January 2008/9 at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, in Birmingham, UK not 90 minutes up country from where I live.

So today I was Back On The Road, with sleet in the wind and a skip in my heart to see the actual scroll, and marvel at the 125,000 words, which he typed at an average of 6000 a day, hardly stopping to sleep.

It was a small low key exhibition, and so only thirty foot of the scroll could be unveiled ( tho, that is more than at any other time because of the difficulty of rolling it back up, as it was typed on such delicate paper ) I wasn't allowed to photograph the scroll for copyright reasons but a security guard did allow me to take a view of the room and the scroll laid out like a tall thin person in a casket in the centre of the hall.

And so i spent a happy hour, clutching and referring to my copy of On The Road i'd bought in Harrisburg one idle day, two years ago, as i matched it to the passages in the first thirty foot, which was about his first trip from New York to San Francisco.

I left a happy man, and marvelling how writing, and Art in general, can inspire and change peoples lives for the better, giving them some understanding of this three score years and ten, we all stumble through in our own unique, never to be seen again, way.

Sir Dayvd ( suitably humbled and inspired ) of Oxfordshire


  1. Fascinating how all things are connected. 6 degrees of Sir Dayvd.

    Excellent report!

    Sir Bowie "getting out my copy of On The Road tonight" of Greenbriar

  2. Excellent! I had no idea of the Colts connection! It is indeed a small yet at the same time expansive world that we live in!

    Here's to Sir D and Sir Jack!

    Sir Hook Who's Glad to Know One of Them from Warrick