Sunday, November 11, 2007

Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac On the Road at the New York Public Library

Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac On the Road will show at the New York Public Library from November 9-February 24, 2008 and March 1-16, 2008. The show includes 60 feet of the On the Road scroll manuscript alomng with numerous images taken by Allen Ginsberg and holdings from the Kerouac archive.

The arrival of the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac's On the Road is an important moment in American letters for at least two reasons: first, because Kerouac (1922 –1969) is generally regarded as chief of the triumvirate comprising himself, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs, who were fathers of the Beat movement; and second, because the sensation caused by the publication of On the Road brought Kerouac to the attention of a national audience,” said Library President Paul LeClerc. “The New York Public Library could not allow this significant anniversary to pass without a significant exhibition and accompanying publication, especially since in 2001, the Library's Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature acquired the Jack Kerouac Archive.”

On the Road was inspired by four cross-country road trips taken by Kerouac, three from New York to California and back, and a round trip from New York to Mexico. Drafts, fragments, and journal entries show Kerouac's literary journey while writing the novel. The 1949 notebook “Night Notes,” which includes a hand-drawn map of the United States; the 1949-52 Rain and Rivers notebook, bearing the evocative subtitle, “The Marvelous notebook presented to me by Neal Cassady in San Francisco Which I have Crowded in Words”; the 1950 “Hip Generation,” and the 1950 fragmentary draft bearing the working title “Gone on the Road with Minor Artistic Corrections,” are among the revelatory journals, notebooks, and drafts that reveal the enormous amount of work and thought that Kerouac expended on the novel, and the daring with which he carried it out. A visual highlight displayed is a 1952 pencil and red pen drawing of Kerouac's design for a never-published paperback edition of On the Road; a man stands with his back to the reader, in front of a highway with the words “by John Kerouac Kerouac Kerouac Kerouac” cascading down the road like a speed warning. Photos and communication to, from, and by the other Beats are interspersed throughout the exhibition. Drawings and paintings by Kerouac are also featured, revealing the seriousness of his artistic ambition and the talent that justified it.

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