On The Road
By Jack Kerouac
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On The Road by Jack Kerouac ranked # 55 on The Modern Library's Top 100 Novels list as selected by its Board Members.
On the Road is a novel by Jack Kerouac, published by Viking Press in 1957. This largely autobiographical work, written as a stream of consciousness and based on the spontaneous road trips of Kerouac and his friends across mid-century America, is often considered the defining work of the postwar Beat Generation
that was so affected by jazz, poetry, and drug experiences. As the inspiration came from real life, hundreds of references in On the Road have real-world counterparts.
The book became an overnight success, and gathered an epic mythos that was worthy of its fame. As the story goes, On the Road was written by Kerouac in only three weeks in a burst of artistic fury while living with his parents in Ozone Park, New York, hammered out on one long scroll of teletype paper, which
Kerouac called "the roll."
The roll does exist - it was purchased in 2001 by Jim Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, for $2.4 million - and it was indeed typed in a blazing three weeks, with no margins, singlespaced, and no paragraph breaks. But the myth of the story overlooks some of the finer points of the novel's composition. Much of the book was actually written as it happened, over the seven years of Kerouac's travels, in the tiny notebooks that he always carried with him and wrote in during his spare time.
The myth also overlooks the tedious organization and preparation that came before Kerouac's creative explosion, as well as the fact that Kerouac revised the novel several times before Malcolm Cowley of Viking Press agreed to publish it.
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