Greetings from cloudy Sussex. After our intensive night of writing I have popped down to spend a few days with my sister Claire. We had made plans to go up to London for the day for a bit of culture and I was browsing 'things to do' sites ... and what should pop up but the information that the original scroll on which Jack Kerouac wrote 'On The Road' back in those hectic three weeks in 1951 was in London for the first time and on display at the British Library (it's there until 27th December).We really, genuinely didn't notice the 'no photographs' signs. I stepped back to see if we could get a better view of the whole thing when I realised. Fortunately no one came and told us off, and it turned out that the one shot Claire took of me shows off the scroll really well as it stretches away into the distance.
It is an object lesson in silencing your 'inner editor', one of the bits of advice that are doled out to help NaNo participants to reach that coveted 50,000 words. For Keruoac it was all about avoiding interruptions to the creative process of what he called 'spontaneous prose'. Although written in one go the details in the story had been meticulously recorded in a series of notebooks made during the long road trip that he took with Neal Cassady. There are some minor XXXX type corrections but otherwise the text flows down the paper in a continuous stream of words. I discovered in searching that you can buy a book copy of his original first draft, which I can see would have some curiosity value for writers, to be able to literally see the editing process in action. You can see on the scroll itself, for example, that when he wrote it he used 'Neal' throughout; his name in the final version is replaced with Dean Moriarty. There are sections on the scroll that have been crossed out in pencil and regular little notes in the margins. It was fascinating to see and I was glad I had the opportunity, such a significant piece of literary history.
In another room we browsed the first draft of 'Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis' by Wendy Cope (utterly illegible), some Angela Carter, saw Jane Austen's writing desk and the original hand written words to a couple of The Beatles songs. The Magna Carta was being 'rested' so we missed that, but all in all a very worthwhile spur of the moment visit. I was just sorry I hadn't bought my laptop as it would have been fun to be able to say I had written a few hundred words sitting in the British Library.
My original review of On The Road can be visited here.