Prolonging the Magic

Dara’s (and Mark Twain’s) cautionary words on the danger of reading books that meant a lot to you earlier in life are well-taken, but I maintain that On the Road is a special case. Note that I didn’t re-read the originally published version, but instead went back further and read the original scroll on the second time around. And I was older and [marginally] wiser, sure, but the magic was still there.

Maybe you love On the Road. Maybe you think it was kind of meh. Either way, I maintain that you haven’t really gotten the full experience until you read the original scroll, and either way I think you’ll come away from the scroll feeling like you just had a much richer, vibrant experience than from reading the book alone. The novel version, I like to think of as a sort of practice run. But the scroll is the real thing.

(When I say “the real thing,” I don’t just mean because it’s unedited. I am, by no means, anti-editing; I happen to like Raymond Carver a hell of a lot more, for example, after Gordon Lish got his hands on him. But Kerouac’s project was uniquely weird and trying to format it into a novel kind of undermined the book’s real value, which is as a sort of cracked-out non-fiction prose poem.)

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