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"Let's start the car and blow some air!" (Sal)
am 27. Mai 2013
To enable his frenetic continuous typing, Jack Kerouac simply scotch-taped several sheets of tracing paper together, creating a 120-foot-long roll he fed into his type writer - not as some critics would have it, a roll of Teletype-paper. The entire scroll consists indeed of one single paragraph, written single-spaced, and giving the real names of the protagonists in the published novel. The scroll was auctioned off by the Kerouac estate for $2.4 million in 2001 to Jim Irsay (owner of the football team Indianapolis Colts), who makes it available for public viewing.
The novel is set in 1947, although it was written in 1950. Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac (Dean Moriarty and Sal Paradise in the book) started their 1800 miles drive to Mexico City to visit William Burroughs. Kerouac compares the narrative as a specific era in jazz history, "somewhere between its Charlie Parker Ornithology period and another period that began with Miles Davis." The narrative begins in New York, passes Chicago and drives across the continent to San Francisco, where Sal takes a job as a night watchman at a boarding house for merchant sailors. But he is soon on the road again.
The "civilized" world he’d left behind was gripped in Cold War paranoia under the impression of the Korean War, the U.S. had built the hydrogen bomb and Kerouac was depressed and convinced he might as well die. But high on grass, bouncing along Mexican roads, he experienced a happy hallucination: a microburst of gold shot from the sky right into his startled eyes. This was the moment, he later wrote, that at last made On the Road possible, the "great Occasion" when he had the vision that Dean was God, and God had the face of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the hero who had saved the world from oppression and slavery. Small wonder that to Kerouac this seemed “the most pleasant and graceful trip in the world.
When Dean and Sal reached the La Mexica, they encountered thousands of hipsters in floppy straw hats and long- lapeled jackets, some of them selling crucifixes and weed in the alleys and Mambo blared from everywhere. They found an apartment close to Bill and Joan Burroughs, who had fled the U.S. after Bill’s last drug bust and was writing one of the classic confessional novels of Beat literature. But Mexico City developed into a disaster and soon Sal found himself at loose ends, stayed stoned, smoking fifteen joints a day, and helped himself to Bill’s morphine. After another hallucination in which he saw himself as the saintly hero and prophetic author of On the Road, he left Mexico just one month later and began walking to New York, occasionally hitching a ride. Despite the pain and heartbreak of his misadventure, On the Road was taking shape in his soul.
It is this long trip across half a continent to Mexico City with Dean that can be interpreted as Sal’s last attempt at finding an answer to his problems. The novel comes to a close a year later in New York, where Dean recommends to move to San Francisco, however that doesn’t work and Dean returns to the West alone. The novel ends with Sal sitting on a New York pier during sunset, contemplating God, America, crying children, and closing with "I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty."
Jack Kerouac’s life in New York turned out to be as tumultuous as his stay in Mexico, but in 1951, the book took its final form as an ode to Neal Cassady. However, Kerouac had a long and difficult time finding a publisher. His experimental writing style and sympathies towards minorities made many edtors highly uncomfortable, in post-War America. Graphic descriptions of drug-use and homosexual behavior could even provoke obscenity charges. Finally the book was published in 1957 by Viking and created a sensation and hasn’t lost it’s faszination even today.