Jack Kerouac’s Legacy

Joseph Lapin debates the writer’s literary reputation:

While other literary figures are championed for breaking free of traditional narrative form, Jack Kerouac is still ridiculed for lacking plot, shape and form. He’s attacked for his novels being so free flowing and “improvised,” and he’s still judged by conventional thought. It seems important that not only should Kerouac be freed from the Beat label, which he despised, but also from the conventions and expectations of the novel.

Imagine for a moment if “On the Road” were published today — as a memoir. Would his book have been received differently? Probably. Memoirs are allowed many concessions in terms of structure and dramatic intensity compared to novels. Most readers of memoir aren’t expecting an Aristotelian plot with a perfectly timed recognition and an earth-shattering reversal. ”On the Road” may have been judged unfairly because it was ahead of its time — or part of another time altogether.

Great writing is rewriting. The persistent notion that Kerouac didn’t edit or rewrite or draft his novels is preposterous. It’s one of the worst misconceptions about the author. One needs to look no further than comparing the published version of ‘On The Road’ with the infamous original scroll. [via spinetinglermag]

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