Thomas Powers writes in his review of Kerouac’s new biography:

The new novel and the new method were both slow to arrive. In the summer of 1948 Kerouac told himself the new right way was to include only ‘thoughts that come unannounced, unplanned, unforced, vividly true in their dazzling light’.

But the road novel that emerged from his typewriter was still made up in the usual way – characters, scenes, dialogue. Kerouac wrote one version after another, changing the names of characters, adding or cutting scenes, thinking up new titles…

Gradually, the fictive story disappeared, replaced by a bare-bones account of what happened during the two or three years when Cassady was most present and made his deepest impression in Kerouac’s life. ‘It’s not the words that count,’ he told himself, lying in bed in November 1949, ‘but the rush of what is said.’

Finally, by the spring of 1951 Kerouac was ready to start again from word one. 

Three weeks later he had written On the Road. He told Cassady in a letter that the book ‘went fast because road is fast’.

Cassady & Kerouac

The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac by Joyce Johnson
Viking, 489 pp, September, ISBN 978 0 670 02510 7
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