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News Release

For immediate use 

Sept. 1, 2005 -- No. 387

Note: For a media availability while
the scroll is unrolled, see end of story.

Kerouac manuscript is
‘On the Road’ to UNC

By KELLY OCHS
UNC News Services

CHAPEL HILL — When Jack Kerouac wrote "On the Road," about a young man’s travels across America, he might not have thought the manuscript on which he wrote the novel would some day make a similar trek across the country.

Unlike the characters in the 120-foot scroll, the manuscript will not have to hitchhike as it makes its way to more than a dozen stops – including one at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library.

A 48-foot section of the scroll will be on display in Wilson’s Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room from 4 p.m. Sept. 15 to Dec. 17. The display will be free to the public, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Co-sponsors are UNC’s Rare Book Collection and the N.C. Writers’ Network.

"The scroll is an American literary icon, one of the most important cultural artifacts of the past half century," said Dr. Charles McNamara, collection curator. The collection contains one of the largest assemblies of Beat materials in the nation, with some 10,000 literary volumes, photographs and other items.

"On the Road," a largely autobiographical novel, became the anthem of the Beat generation, a term Kerouac coined. The "Beats" represented the youthful spirit of spontaneity underlying the nonconformity of this rebellious and literary culture during the 1950s.

The exhibit also will include first editions, letters, and photos of Kerouac and other Beats taken and annotated by Allen Ginsberg. Letters, pictures and memoirs of Edie Parker, Kerouac’s first wife, will be exhibited for the first time.

The Friends of the Library and the N.C. Writers’ Network will sponsor the following three events connected with the scroll’s visit:

Kerouac wrote "On the Road" on pieces of thin teletype taped together during a three-week writing spree in 1951. Thin pencil lines can still be seen on one edge of the scroll where Kerouac probably made marks to cut the paper to fit in his typewriter.

"He decided that the best way to write it was just to type as fast as he could without such distractions as paper changes to slow down the flow of ideas," McNamara said.

The novel was not published until 1957, and only after Kerouac changed the drug-using, unconventional characters’ names to fictitious ones. But the real names of several characters appear in the scroll – including Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Neal Cassady, beat writers and friends of Kerouac.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay bought the scroll in 2001 for $2.43 million – the largest amount ever paid at auction for a manuscript. He owns the physical object, while the copyright to the content resides with the estates of Anthony G. Sampatacacus and Jan Kerouac. The former was a friend of the Kerouac family when the author was growing up in Lowell; the latter was Jack Kerouac’s daughter.

Irsay sent the scroll on its current 13-stop, four-year national tour of museums and libraries, reminiscent of the wanderings that Kerouac detailed in "On the Road."

For more information on the UNC exhibit, call (919) 962-1143.

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(Ochs is a senior journalism and mass communication major from Winston-Salem.)

Note: Exhibitors are expected to painstakingly unroll the historic scroll and extend it through the exhibit cases at about 2-3 p.m. Sept. 14. Media representatives are invited to photograph the process and interview Canary and McNamara.

Wilson Library contact: McNamara, (919) 962-1143, cbmcnama@email.unc.edu or cmcnamara@nc.rr.com 

News Services contacts: Print, L.J. Toler, (919) 962-8589; broadcast, Karen Moon, (919) 962-8595

Note: Exhibitors are expected to painstakingly unroll the historic scroll and extend it through the exhibit cases at about 2-3 p.m. Sept. 14. Media representatives are invited to photograph the process and interview Canary and McNamara.

Wilson Library contact: McNamara, (919) 962-1143, cbmcnama@email.unc.edu or cmcnamara@nc.rr.com

News Services contacts: Print, L.J. Toler, (919) 962-8589; broadcast, Karen Moon, (919) 962-8595