Jack Kerouac's On the Road

Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road, a Beat Generation novel.

On the Road is a novel by Lowell-born writer Jack Kerouac, written in April of 1951 and first published in 1957. This stream of consciousness book is autobiography based on Jack Kerouac’s life experiences traveling across the United States, although many of the exact details of Kerouac’s adventures were changed. Time magazine rated it one of the 100 best English novels written.

Many people consider On The Road the defining work of the Beat Generation, a group of writers, musicians, and artists that emerged in the 1950s and produced works that rejected what were considered societal norms. Kerouac was the perceived leader of the Beat Generation, which included writers such as Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. Future generations of artists and musicians were also influenced by the works of the Beat Generation, including Bob Dylan and The Beattles.

Kerouac’s original version of On The Road was written on a typewriter using a series of twelve foot-long rolls of paper that were taped together to form a 120 foot-long scroll. While the content of the manuscript is what became most famous, the fact that it was written on a single roll of paper made it all the more famous. Kerouac famously typed ferrociously day and night to complete this stream of consciousness work in less than a year.

In 2007, Lowell honored the 50th anniversary of the publication of On The Road with a year filled with various events. The scroll spent the summer of 2007 on display in Lowell, MA, where it was celebrated by thousands.