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.