Kerouac's 'On the Road' Manuscript Unfurled

Kerouac scroll

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

Read the Beginning of the Scroll
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.

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