Item #49 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this ragged copy of On The Road by Jack Kerouac. It's by Penguin Books, appearing to be an 18th printing of a 1976 edition. It's 310 pages, 5" x 7-5/8", and it's in rough, rough shape: cover creases, dog-ears, annotations (see below picture), taped-in references (see below picture), underlining, Post-Its, packing taped holding it together, etc. The provenance is unknown, but I must have bought it in 2002 or 2003 at the urging of my Neal Cassady-esque friend, Keith. It was either the first or second Kerouac book I read, and, yes, it was that late in my life (late 40s). I may have read The Dharma Bums first. I tried to ascertain this from my Amazon orders history to no avail. And my failing memory is no help at all. I may have to resort to looking through my journals from the time. (P.S. I looked back through my journals and it appears I read The Dharma Bums and Big Sur and On The Road around the end of 2004, so I was wrong with the date above. Order? TDB before BS, but unsure of OTR's place.)
I've opined about On The Road in general in a previous curation (or two), so let me say some things about this particular copy. It's a prized possession because of its history. I read it during my mid-life crisis bachelor days while teaching at Mansfield University in Pennsylvania, most likely while sitting on the couch in the window at the Night & Day Coffee Cafe in Mansfield. It certainly put me on the Kerouacian path. I've read it many times, in part because I used it as one of the texts when I taught a Kerouac first year seminar at the University of Maine at Farmington in the spring of 2013-2017 (5 times). Hence all the annotating and Post-It notes. Also of note, this is the copy I used when writing The Beat Handbook: 100 Days of Kerouactions, so it has all 100 Kerouactions lined in pen and numbered (see below picture).
|My attempt to keep the real-life characters straight on a blank end page|
|My taped-in reference from John Leland's Why Kerouac Matters on the title page|
|An example of the way all 100 Kerouactions appear|
We've been through a lot, this book and me. Two jobs, retirement, several relationships, 4 houses, 3 moves, living in 2 states, 2 big birthdays . . . a lot. And this copy shows it. So I love it dearly. It's worth exactly nothing to anyone else, but to me it is, well, priceless.
Below is a picture of Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (on its side in front of the upright books) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac.
Shelf #1 of my Kerouac bookshelf