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John Sampas, executor of Jack Kerouac’s literary estate, has announced the publication of an “unexpurgated” version of “On The Road”. The estate has signed a contract with Viking to produce the book, tenatively scheduled to appear next year, which sees the fiftieth anniversary of the original publication, and–no doubt–a sleazy coroporate buckfest that puts even “Howl Fifty” in the shade.

Unexpurgated, I hear you ask? Yes. Many things were apparently removed from the original typescript when “Road” went into book form–some by Kerouac but probably many more by his publishers and his editor. He was viewed then–as he is now by the literary establishment–as a primitive whose style needed drastic pruning to make it intelligible to the world. And he wrote about things that were presumed not to be palatable to the tastes of the times. Couldn’t have a big book full of sex and drugs, now, could we? Nobody would buy that.

Sampas says sections of the typescript crossed out by Kerouac won’t be included in the unexpurgated version of the book. Can it then be considered truly unexpurgated? It seems doubtful. And I’m not sure how they intend to determine who crossed out what, though I’d be interested to know. Why not just give us the whole thing, including the deletions, noting that certain passages may have been excised by Jack so that we have a sense of what his final vision of the book may have been while also getting a valuable insight into his creative method and the flow of his mind? so that we can learn about the real man.

There is too much shaping and reshaping of history across all of the Beat estates, and I for one would like it to stop. These men were imperfect human beings who did things which, in our pallid and conservative age, most people would find unpalatable. But that is the truth from which some of the greatest writing of the modern age sprang. Lie about it and we’ll never understand anything.


It seems, after a little research, that Gerald Nicosia’s unsurpassed biography of Kerouac, “Memory Babe”, is now out of print in every country this writer is aware of other than (for some reason) Spain. How on earth did that happen? Those close to the politicking that poisons the Beat world know that Nicosia is not terrifically well-liked by the Kerouac Estate, but CHILDREN! this is the definitive work. Don’t you want your boy to be represented properly to posterity? Biographies, historically, have shaped the way a writer is perceived for generations.

Kerouac fans should write to publishers in their own countries and request a new edition of the book straight away. Aside from everything else it’s an injustice. You can pick up the Barry Miles or Tom Clark books everywhere, and though I’m sure their mothers loved them, neither author is a patch on Gerald Nicosia.

Kerouac Poster

Originally uploaded by dreamingyakker.

Here is what I deemed the best of Kerouac. His writing lends itself well to this form.

The High Sierra of California is a really incredible book I must say – incredible in both a visual sense and a literary sense. Puts a quiver in your heart as bedtime reading. It’s inspiring me to get to the Sierras this summer and/or next year. It includes writings by Muir and Snyder, as well as beautiful woodblock prints by an artist whose name alludes me at the moment. Definitely worth a read.

July 2006
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Beat Generation

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