[sixties-l] Kerouac Still Draws a Crowd

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Sat May 12 2001 - 16:26:43 EDT

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       Saturday, May 12, 2001

            Kerouac Still Draws a Crowd

            Literature: Hundreds gaze on the first draft
            of 'On the Road.' The manuscript is on display
            before being auctioned later this month.

            By JOHN M. GLIONNA, Times Staff Writer

          SAN FRANCISCO--David Jacobson realized the bit of renegade in him 15
      years ago when he rashly decided to relocate from Chicago to this
      literary mecca of "madmen and malcontents."

          He had just finished reading Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" for a
      college class, and following in the tire tracks of his newfound hero
      suddenly became his obsession. He chucked his old life to cruise the blue
      highways and back roads Kerouac once meandered, moving to the city he has
      come to associate with his beloved Jack.

          On Friday, the 36-year-old freelance journalist was among hundreds of
      Kerouac fanatics who got a chance to view what many referred to as "the
      sacred scroll," the first draft of the 1957 novel that became the bible
      of the emerging Beat Generation, the book many said profoundly changed
      both their lives and American literature for good.

          Locked away in a safe for decades, the manuscript--typed
      single-spaced on 120 feet of tracing paper as Kerouac holed up in his New
      York City flat for a caffeine-fueled 20-day writing marathon--was put on
      display by Christie's auction house here prior to its sale later this

           Officials expect the draft to command $1.5 million. But for Kerouac
      disciples, who gazed at the document with the reverence they would have
      for a religious artifact, the scroll is considered pretty near priceless.

           "It's like the Holy Grail of American letters, the Rosetta stone and
      the Shroud of Turin all rolled into one," said Jacobson. "Kerouac is a
      hero to me. He's the reason I live here today. And it's such a rare thing
      to look down here on Jack's handiwork, to see the real source of
      inspiration in your life."

           San Francisco was a destination city in "On the Road," billed on
      later-edition covers in the 1950s as "the explosive bestseller that tells
      all about today's wild youth and their frenetic search for Experience and

           Kerouac completed his second draft of the novel while staying at the
      home here of friend Neal Cassady, who inspired the book. He also spent
      much time carousing on the streets of North Beach with poet Allen
      Ginsberg and other emerging literary voices of his generation.

           Christie's officials decided to show the work here and in Chicago
      before the May 22 auction in New York. "San Francisco was on the top of
      the list because Jack spent so much time here," said Chris Coover, a
      manuscript specialist at Christie's. "It had to be here."

           Kerouac, who died in 1969, created the first draft of his definitive
      Beat Generation manifesto by pasting together 12-foot-long strips of
      semitranslucent paper, then feeding the scroll through the platen of his
      manual typewriter so he could write without interruption or even

           Ginsberg once called the scroll "a magnificent single paragraph
      several blocks long, rolling like the road itself."

           Now yellowed with age, the manuscript still bears the occasional
      cross-outs--by repeated Xs--the penciled deletions and word changes.
      Auction officials showed the scroll under a plexiglass display atop an
      oblong table covered with a white cloth.

           On Friday, a steady stream of bike messengers, writers, teachers and
      tourists peered at the display, some reading the lines with their lips
      moving. While some gawked in silence, others emoted, like the bearded man
      in the black beret who repeatedly whispered: "Man! Wow! Man! Wow!"

           Several Kerouac biographers and other scholars also showed up to see
      the draft, answering impromptu questions from fans.

           Gerald Nicosia, author of the 1983 memoir "Memory Babe," told rapt
      listeners how Kerouac used to hang out at a bar called the Black Cat,
      once located only a block away from where the Transamerica Pyramid now

           Mendocino County builder Tom Jones, who drove three hours to see the
      manuscript, joked that he was a little disappointed. "They should have
      included a little tube so you could smell it, too," he said.

           "I can just imagine what that thing would be like. It probably still
      reeks of cigarettes, sweat and Benzedrine. But man, oh man, here it is,
      right here."

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