For those who don’t know (shame on you!) On the Road is Jack Kerouac’s largely autobiographical novel based on various road trips around America in the late 40’s, the novel is set between 1947 and 1950. It is regarded a seminal work of the Beat Generation and is infused with the jazz, drug, poetry and drink culture that so defined the movement. It is full of rich and colourful characters many of them based on real people (including William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg). Kerouac’s characters Sal Paradise (based on himself) and Dean Moriart (based on Neal Cassady) travel by any means necessary, sometimes hitching and others driving. Although often short of money or even broke they sometimes travel in style, notable cars that appear in the book are a 1949 Hudson and a 1947 Cadillac limousine. The Cadillac is shown little respect and is part of an amusing snippet of the book.
The beat generation where outsiders in their generation, getting on the road was an expression of freedom in a way that it could never be in a modern global age. It is possibly for this reason that the beat generation is so fashionable at the moment. Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty probably exhibit far greater excess in there lifestyles than Kerouac and his contemporaries but are conforming to a norm not breaking new ground; is there anything they do that Courtney Love hasn’t been doing on and of for the past fifteen years? Last year saw a BBC documentary fronted by comedian and On the Road Fan, Russell Brand (before Brand/Rossgate) retracing part of the journey travelled from Massachusetts to San Francisco. The program is hardly enlightening and Brand has a compulsion to always be centre stage but it does have an interesting part about the original manuscript. It was typed on what Kerouac called “the scroll” a continuous sheet of paper measuring one hundreds and twenty-seven feet long. It is typed single-spaced with no margins or paragraph or breaks of any kind. The final published book is also one of TIME Magazine100 best English-language novels since1923 but a version based on the original scroll is also now available. The scroll was purchases by the Indianapolis colts owner Jim Irsay a few years ago for nearly two and half million dollars, it has been on public display ever since (it even made it to my home city of Birmingham, England not Alabama! Last year although I didn’t get to see it as it had been moved on Ireland by the time I found out).
The book has had a huge influence since its release just over 50 years ago and its fans include Bob Dylan who claimed it changed his life and the late Doors front man Jim Morrison. But amazingly it has never been made into a feature film, until now! That is the reason for my article now. After years of rumours of a Gus Van Sant adaptation a film is finally in production. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries). Little information has been given about the production but it appears Jose River (who also scripted The Motorcycle Diaries) has provided the screenplay. Sam Riley who was very impressive as the Joy Division singer Ian Curtis in Control is the only actor currently linked with the film but it hasn’t been announced the character he will play. It is has also been suggested to help capture the jazz era of the film it will be shot in black and white. Whatever happens I hope this is one adaptation they don’t screw up but with Coppola and Salles it should be in good hands.
The film is due for release in America towards the end of the year and although a UK date has not been announced it should be early next year. Plenty of time for those who haven’t already to read the book.