Jack Kerouac - On The Road
Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life. – Jack Kerouac
Kerouac may have equated the road to life, but his roads most taken were American highways and small roadways. Roads where he could visit truck stops and diners, pass wheat fields and grand vistas. America!
Road trips are symbolic to America. We backpack through Europe (or did) and road trip through America. There is any number of symbolic American routes still possible to drive, but it is Jack Kerouac’s literary documentation of his own cross-country journey, On The Road, I prefer.
My first chance to see the original scroll of On The Road, was a recent visit to the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery in Ft. Myers. As seen in the photographs, the original manuscript, taped together in a single long roll of unbroken paper, contains the names of the original characters, not yet fictionalized as in the book version.
On view was 48 feet of the original manuscript scroll, 120 feet long in total, typed in 20 days.
As exciting as it was to see the manuscript, I was even more taken with hearing Kerouac’s voice on an accompanying video and seeing framed images from Ruscha’s book. Also titled “On The Road”, the cover written in Kerouac’s handwriting.
You could buy a used limited edition of Ruscha’s own On The Road for $8,800 on Amazon (used). But fortunately, framed pages were from the oversized novel were on display along with a borrowed, glass- encased, copy of the book. It is illustrated with Ruscha’s own photos and contains exquisitely embossed pages; an extravagant collage style book complimenting the exhibition of the scroll.
The scroll is no longer on display, but the gallery was featuring a show of Kerouac’s artwork (who knew) next. Add the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery to your must- visit list.
Thanks for reading. Jade Dellinger, gallery director extraordinaire, was kind enough to let me take photos but I only had the iPhone with me this trip. Jack Kerouac resided in my neighboring city of St. Petersburg, where efforts are underway to turn his home into a museum.