Next month marks the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s autobiographical novel “On The Road.” The book came out as the fad of the beat generation was losing its following. The 1957 work takes place ten years before and was written in three weeks and with little attention to editing. Now, Kerouac is a writer that you never hear about until you get to college, but that does not mean that his work has not had a significant impact in the literary history of this country, as the celebrations for the anniversary of his novel will show.

Kerouac was born on March 12, 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts to French-Canadian parents. He went to school at Columbia University and later went into the Navy where he was discharged on claims that he had a schizoid personality. So he became a merchant seaman and used his experiences to later become one of the leaders of the Beat Movement. “On The Road” demonstrated to this generation what the Beat movement was all about. The story was about a man and his friend hitchhiking across the country and meeting several people and having significant experiences along the way without the luxury of material possessions and with a care free attitude.

To celebrate Kerouac’s great achievement, the book’s publisher, Viking, is issuing a 50th Anniversary Edition which includes a reproduction of Gilbert Millstein’s New York Times review on September 5, 1957. Viking also has an unpublished “scroll manuscript” of the novel written in 1951 typed without a paragraph break on thin drawing paper and tapted together into a 120-foot roll. They also have an article by New York Times reporter John Leland’s “Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of ’On the Road’ (They’re Not What You Think).” Meanwhile, the Library of America will put out five related novels along with “On The Road” including “The Dharma Bums,” “The Subterraneans,” “Tristessa,” and “Lonesome Traveler,” as well as a number of journal entries. At the same time, City Lights Books, who first published fellow Beat writer Allen Gins berg’s “Howl” is publishing a memoir by Kerouac’s first wife, Edie Kerouac-Parker.


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