Litkicks Message Board Archive

hope for the scroll

Posted to WritersAndGenres

I have no idea what will happen to the scroll, but I am determined now to keep a good thought about it. I have done some inquiring, and cannot say with certainty that I believe the scroll will end up in private hands. Other manuscripts have sold for similar amounts and were subsequently donated to literary foundations or libraries. Anyway, I think it's in the best interest of the collective consciousness now to be as positive as possible, for if good vibes can affect the ambience of living, let those same vibes protect the scroll for all of us.

i was in NYC a few days ago and had planned to attend the auction, but my trip was cut short. Still, I did get a chance to see the scroll and I filed this report to Beat University, a private mailing list for Beat educators, researchers, writers and scholars:

I flew from Seattle to NYC on Thursday, 3 May 2001, to housesit for friends, to study in the Berg Collection, and ultimately, to attend the auction of the scroll for OTR on the 22nd. Since I had serious misgivings about the auction, I'd called Chris Coover at Christie's the day before I left, wanting to discuss possible scenarios for disposition of the scroll. He was generous with his time and offered to continue the discussion on Friday the 4th, once I was unpacked, at Christie's in Rockefeller Center.

To make a potentially long story short, because of great timing, I had the opportunity to see the scroll before it hit the road for Chicago, San Francisco and Geneva, Switzerland.

I wrote my impressions down as quickly as I could after seeing the scroll. I believe I was seeing, approximately, the same section described by Alice in an earlier posting on the subject. I was surprised by a number of things, and as always, weirdly stunned to be in the presence of a corporeal expression of Kerouac--just as I always feel when reading letters and notebooks in the Berg Collection.

The section I saw was just before the bourbon-orooni Slim Galliard section. Luanne is mentioned, and there are paragraphs x'd out in pencil by jack, and hand-written paragraph marks inserted, in Jack's handwriting. Occasionally, you will see where he backed up and hit a word hard with his xxx marks, because these sections are very black from the pressure, and when he resumes typing, for the first several words the ink is still very dark, until he stops slamming with his fingertips and settles back into a more light-fingered rhythm. because of this, there are dark passages all over, followed by lighter passages, but continuing with no paragraph breaks except the ones jack entered with pencil by hand later.

It's one thing to see it, but it would be quite another thing to study it; that would be a day that would go down in history. but in terms of study, no Kerouac scholar has studied it. Not one single qualified person has ever been allowed to sit for days with it and make notations, comparing it to the final version of OTR, etc. etc., and the differences are many and important.

Maybe the biggest surprise for me is that the paper does not look at all yellow, like it did in the NYTimes/CNN photos. It is, in fact, quite healthy-looking paper, and i don't think it has deteriorated at all in 50 years. the edges, yes, are turning yellow or brown. the edge where jack trimmed off some width to fit it in his typewriter is a little raggedy, but surprisingly fine, nonetheless. it is taped-together rolls of tracing paper of some sort, but very heavy, like architectural vellum. i would bet it is in the vellum family. it's not the kind of brittle tracing paper I used as a kid in the 50s and 60s, which, when wrinkled, created white scars on th! e paper that could not be removed. It is indistinguishable from the vellum I used in college when I was doing lettering projects and such for my art degree, vellum being a more flexible paper with translucency equivalent to any tracing paper, but heavier.

I experienced a more intense emotion than the typical sort of awe Kerouwhackos always describe, and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to convey it, but I will try. I had a sense of something huge being freed--like Kerouac's own spirit--in the metaphor of the scroll, stashed away all these years arbitrarily while Kerouac scholars grow older every day and die without ever seeing it or studying it. Although I don't know where it will go, I cannot believe that anywhere it will go will be less accessible than where it has been since Jack died. There is, perhaps, cause for hope, that the people who've done so much for Kerouac scholarship will at last be able to study this most-important piece of the puzzle.

Unfortunately, I had to cut my trip short, so I won't be attending the auction on Tuesday. I hope someone else from BU will be there and will describe this historic day for the rest of us.

Most of all, I hope against hope that the scroll will soon find a home at the NYPL or any other accessible research library.

keep a good thought,



maybe levi has a place where I can upload my two photos of the scroll?