Arts & Life

Kerouac's 'On the Road' Manuscript Unfurled

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

A view of Kerouac's 120-foot-long manuscript for On the Road as it is unrolled. Courtesy of Christie's hide caption

Read the Beginning of the Scroll
toggle caption Courtesy of Christie's

The legend behind the writing of Jack Kerouac's On the Road is well known, if not entirely accurate. Fueled by inspiration, coffee and Benzedrine, Kerouac sat down at his typewriter and — in one burst of creative energy — wrote the novel that would make him the voice of his generation in just 20 days, typing it out on a single, 120-foot-long scroll.

In Depth

Present at the Creation: Learn the true story behind the origins of On the Road, and hear and see Kerouac read portions of his manuscript.

Kerouac actually spent much more time laying the groundwork for his novel than that creation myth suggests, but the part about the giant scroll manuscript is true. Now for the first time, the unfurled scroll has gone on display at the University of Iowa Museum of Art in Iowa City. It will travel next to the Las Vegas Public Library.

The giant scroll, which can be seen from end to end, is being housed under glass in a gallery long enough to contain its full length when unrolled. However, its ending is missing — it was reportedly chewed by a dog.

NPR's Melissa Block discusses the display with Howard Collinson, the museum's director.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from