It is a popular literary myth that Jack Kerouac holed up in his Manhattan apartment and wrote On the Road in three weeks while on stimulants. The true story of the novel's composition and publication is a further example of how cult fiction is often born in unusual ways. In reality, Kerouac wrote most of the novel in small notebooks over a span of seven years as he made road trips that would come to define, in large part, the Beat Generation. But this represents only the beginning of the novel’s long path to publication and success.
In 1957, Kerouac taped pieces of paper together, forming a continuous sheet one hundred and twenty feet long. Using the material from his many notebooks, he typed On the Road on what came to be called The Scroll. He used no margins or paragraph breaks. Before Viking Press would agree to publish the work, reformatted to regular textual convention, Kerouac was asked to delete passages deemed pornographic. He also gave several real-life characters fictional names and added new “literary” material, qualifying the book as semi-autobiographical.
The book was published in 1957. In 2007, Viking Press released a more faithful copy of the work, titled On the Road: The Original Scroll. Only slight editing was applied. That The Scroll was then displayed in libraries in the United States and Europe is a testament to the cult status of On the Road.
About This Website
Index of Articles on This Website
What Is Cult Fiction?
Is Cult Fiction the Same as Underground Fiction?
Cult Fiction and Genre
Cult Fiction and ON THE ROAD
Cult Fiction and A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
Moby-Dick: The Ultimate Cult Novel
John Lennon and the Mercy Street Cafe: Cult Fiction in the Making?
The Next Wave of Cult Fiction
List of Cult Fiction Classics
Cult Fiction Websites
Current Trends in Fiction
Understanding the Literary Marketplace
Emerging Writers in the Literary Marketplace
Resources for Writers
About Cat Spaulding