The Textuality of Soulwork
Jack Kerouac’s Quest for Spontaneous Prose
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: University of Michigan Press
Title Page, Series Page, Copyright Page
Jack Kerouac’s fall 1951 work journal and the notebook that includes the original drafts of the “Old Diner” and “Crap in Weeds” sketches are both part of the Jack Kerouac Archive of the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature of the New York Public Library. The...
Jack Kerouac was, as his friend John Clellon Holmes so aptly put it, “a word man,” a writer. Yet we have tended to focus more on Kerouac’s life than what he wrote, how he wrote, or the significance of his writing practice. Even the oft-rehearsed story of how he drafted On the Road in a mere...
Part I: On the Road
Chapter 1: “The Roar of Time”
I first read Kerouac in the spring of 1971. I was living in an old trailer off a rural road outside Ithaca, New York. (It had something to do with the draft and the way things were then, which I won’t bother to talk about.) I had heard of Gary Snyder and picked up The Dharma Bums. I didn’t rush...
Chapter 2: “A Book Always Has a Voice”
Much has been made of Jack Kerouac drafting On the Road in three weeks in April 1951 by writing/typing it as a single 120-foot paragraph on a roll of tracing paper.1 Writing so “spontaneously” supposedly enabled Kerouac to capture the freedom of his road experiences, express his commitment...
Chapter 3: “That’s Not Writing, That’s Typewriting”
A month after drafting On the Road in three weeks, Jack Kerouac summarized the process in a letter to Neal Cassady. From Apr. 2 to Apr. 22 I wrote 125,000 [word] full-length novel averaging 6 thous. a day, 12 thous. first day, 15,000. last day [. . . .] If it goes over (Giroux waiting to see it) then you’ll know yourself what to do with your own work...
Part II: Visions of Cody
Chapter 4: “Blow as Deep as You Want”
Since its publication in January 1973, Visions of Cody has confronted readers with a basic question: is it a cohesive, albeit experimental, work or essentially separate pieces—the literary equivalent to a sampler box of holiday chocolates. Reviewing the book for the New York Times, Aaron Latham...
Chapter 5: “Dead Eye Dick Black Dan”
If Kerouac kept a work journal for December 1951 through early May 1952, as he evolved his fall experiments into Visions of Cody, its whereabouts are unknown. But he later recalled that he wrote Visions of Cody, from October, 1951 to May, 1952, beginning in Long Island and then in Cassady’s attic in San Francisco. I had a bed there. That was the best place I ever wrote...
Jerome McGann opens The Textual Condition by situating what he terms “the textual condition” in relation to the “symbolic exchanges” that constitute “human culture.” Both the practice and study of human culture comprise a network of symbolic exchanges. Because human beings are not angels, these exchanges always involve...