Walking in the Shoes of Kerouac

A few days ago I started Walking in the Shoes of Melville, Dostoevsky, Dante, and Longfellow based on an anecdote I read in a book:


The anecdote involved a student theoretically retyping Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” which turned into a blogger really doing so…. art mirroring life mirroring art mirroring life … so to speak.

So, I decided I wanted to try this out. More accurately, I should say “retry.” I’ve done similar types of activities before just not knowingly for “uncreative” purposes.

I’ve since expanded this project further and now plan to go one step further which I will explain in a minute or so.

I’ve been thinking about this over the last few days and it makes sense. I’m picturing in my mind the stereotypically blackboard exercise of copying the same sentence over and over and over and over again. I’ve also been thinking about Common Books which of course was my original inspiration for this blog. Common books were compiled of copied bits and pieces of works from many sources and served as pieces of inspiration for their owners. I’ve even been thinking about how we wrote and edited our works in the long ago past. It did not matter if we were handwriting or typing, we would do so double spaced so that there would be room for editing in between the lines. Now, we (or at least I) type in the computer (on the iPhone) and edit. This causes our work to be much more ephemeral. Our various iterations of work never existed for any substantial amount of time.

I’ve digressed somewhat. Anyway, until I read the fore-mentioned book, I had no exposure to Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” I’ve since quickly researched it, read a few reviews, purchased a recent edition (on my Kindle), and finally purchased the original scroll version (on my Kindle). Apparently, my long ago university education was somewhat lacking or my memory fails me or both. From what I’ve read so far, it’s my understanding that regardless of the legends surrounding this book, Kerouac spent considerable time writing material that would eventually be incorporating into the book, wrote the scroll itself, and then spent considerable more time revising the work which became the version of the book evidently much loved.

So, it occurred to me…. what would I learn if I used the rewriting technique on both versions of the book simultaneously? The scroll version should be a “rough” draft-like version and the other version should be a refined “polished” version. If I walk down both paths, will I be able to learn something about the authorial process? I’ll start this process in the next post. Each post containing an excerpt from each version.

Another endeavor that I am considering which I should really discuss in a separate post is related to Poetry Exercise as in serving an apprenticeship for a given period of time. That’s what these rewriting projects feel like in a sense…. serving an apprenticeship to acknowledged masters of the literary profession.

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