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Page 3 Profile: Jack Kerouac, Author

Another 'lost' novel?

Kerouac penned his first novel The Sea Is My Brother in 1942, but it was only published last year because the late author disliked it so intensely. The writer, a hero of America's post-war beat generation, is in the news again, but it's not down to another "lost" work. Instead, it's a celebration of his best-loved book. The 120ft manuscript scroll on which Kerouac wrote the seminal On The Road in 1951 goes on display at the British Library near King's Cross today. A special display case has been made to give visitors the chance to read the first 50 foot's worth of prose in full.

But what's the point?

It gives a fascinating insight into the author's writing process. Based on the author's travels across America, the novel was famously written in manic bursts of what Kerouac's contemporary Allen Ginsberg described as "spontaneous bop prosody". Completed in just three weeks, the reams of architects' paper used were taped into a long scroll. Lovers of literature will note there are substantial differences between the scroll version – penned in three weeks in April 1951 – and the version that was published to great acclaim six years later. Kerouac uses his friends' real names rather than the characters he conjured up for the final publication.

Can't we just watch the film?

In this case, you can. Walter Salles's version of On The Road is released in cinemas next Friday, though it's probably more interesting as a footnote in Kristen Stewart's post-Twilight career reinvention than as a piece of filmmaking. Reviewers said it has the "tiresome glow of self-congratulation" and lacks the "mad passion" of Kerouac's novel.

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