A 60-foot scroll is the centerpiece of The New York Public Library’s exhibit “Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road.” Kerouac’s draft of On the Road is a marvel to behold — typed, single-spaced text on sheets of architectural tracing paper he taped together. The full scroll is 120 feet long, with the first half on display. The original is on view until February 22nd, after which a facsimile will take its place for the remainder of the exhibit, which runs though March 16th.
The exhibit illuminates the life and times of Jack Kerouac, the famous Beat generation scribe. On display are diaries, manuscripts, photographs, journals, and a host of intriguing items such as artwork created by Kerouac. The exhibit is divided into eight sections, among them “The Beat Generation,” which pays homage to Kerouac contemporaries Alan Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and others; “Early Life, Influences, and Writings,” which explores some of the writers who made an impact on Kerouac, among them William Blake, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, and Thomas Wolfe; and “Fantasy Sports,” which delves into the one-time aspiring sports reporter’s affinity for horse racing and baseball and the fantasy worlds he created centered on those pastimes.
Highlights include the sketches “Self-Portrait as a Boy” and a rendering of Van Gogh, with whose art Kerouac became interested while visiting France; crutches used by Kerouac after a football injury at Columbia University; and a journal entry in which he praises James Joyce’s Ulysses as the “greatest book ever written.” Also included in the exhibit are audio recordings of Kerouac reading from On the Road and The Subterraneans, as well as singing “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “Ain’t We Got Fun.” Kerouac was a jazz aficionado, and clips can be heard of songs by Charlie Parker, George Shearing, Lester Young, and Slim Gaillard — all of whom receive mentions in On the Road.
For more information on “Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac on the Road,” visit http://www.nypl.org.