Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eat My Words

Kerouac's scroll manuscript of On The Road (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

"[Jack] Kerouac did not type the draft [On The Road] on ordinary sheets of paper, but on a scroll. Before sitting down to type, Kerouac made the scroll by cutting 20-inch-wide lengths of tracing paper into narrower 9-inch strips that fitted into his typewriter. He then pasted them together into 12-foot-long reels of paper so that once he had started, he did not have to stop, just type. The spontaneous outburst of creativity and unrevised rhythm was fuelled only, Kerouac said, by coffee.
[...] The scroll is almost 120 feet long. It looks like a road and a journey in itself. However, the end of the scroll, containing Kerouac’s original ending, is missing. At the current end is a handwritten note from Kerouac that says: 'DOG ATE [Potchky - a dog]'. Potchky was a cocker spaniel owned by Kerouac’s friend Lucien Carr. Nobody knows how much longer the scroll was before Potchky sank his teeth into it.

[...] In 1644, Theodore [Reinking] wrote a political tract entitled Dania ad exteros de perfidia Suecorum. [...] At that particular point, just after the Thirty Years’ War, Denmark was a shadow of its former power, and in sway to the strength of its neighbour, Sweden. Reinking’s tract blamed the Swedes roundly for this appalling situation. Whatever the literary merits of Reinking’s work, or its accuracy, the Swedes took agin it. The tetchy Scandinavians cast Reinking into a dark prison, where he mouldered for many years. At last, he was offered a stark choice: to lose his head or eat his book. (An early variation on Izzard’s cake or death, obviously.) A politician through and through, Reinking preferred the culinary challenge. We don’t know whether his tract was weighty enough to provide an entire meal or merely an amuse-bouche, or whether he acted alone or with kitchen accomplices, but he boiled his manuscript up into a broth and ate it that way." — Lost Manuscripts

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