Jack Kerouac Reads from On the Road (1959)

Jack Ker­ouac wrote On the Road in three very short weeks in 1951. But then it took six years for the book, famous­ly writ­ten on a long scroll, to reach the read­ing pub­lic in 1957. Short­ly after its pub­li­ca­tion, crit­ics were at least quick to rec­og­nize what the book meant. One New York Times review­er called it “the most beau­ti­ful­ly exe­cut­ed, the clear­est and the most impor­tant utter­ance yet made by the gen­er­a­tion Ker­ouac him­self named years ago as beat.” Anoth­er saw in the nov­el “a descrip­tive excite­ment unmatched since the days of Thomas Wolfe.” 54 years lat­er, those ear­ly reviews have with­stood the prover­bial test of time. These days, Mod­ern Library and TIME place the nov­el on their lists of the 100 great­est nov­els.

And now onto our vin­tage clip of the day — Jack Ker­ouac, the man him­self, appear­ing on The Steve Allen Show in 1959, first field­ing some ques­tions, then read­ing from his beat clas­sic.

Bonus: Yale’s course, The Amer­i­can Nov­el Since 1945, fea­tures two lec­tures ded­i­cat­ed to On the Road. More on that here.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Turned Into Google Dri­ving Direc­tions & Pub­lished as a Free eBook

William S. Bur­roughs on the Art of Cut-up Writ­ing

Jack Kerouac’s On the Road Turned Into an Illus­trat­ed Scroll: One Draw­ing for Every Page of the Nov­el

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.