Kerouac: On the Roll

Here’s a rolled out first version of Kerouac’s On the Road. Written over a period of three weeks in April 1951 in manic bursts of what Allen Ginsberg referred to as ‘spontaneous bop prosody’, Jack Kerouac typed the manuscript on rolls of tracing paper, which he taped together into a long scroll to avoid replacing paper at the end of the page and interrupting his creative flow.

In May 1951, Jack Kerouac wrote his friend Neal Cassady to tell him about the road-trip novel he’d just finished. In the letter, Kerouac talked of how he had typed the entire manuscript between April 2 and April 22, on a single 120-foot roll of teletype paper, single-spaced, “just rolled it through typewriter and in fact no paragraphs . . . rolled it out on floor and it looks like a road.”

Thus we have the world’s longest (and best) paragraph.


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