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Birmingham Exhibition – Jack Kerouac: Back On the Road

Written by Chris Routledge, 7th January 2009

by Pip James, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham

Celebrated as a novel which gave expression to a free-spirited generation, passionate about music, longing for travel and a bohemian lifestyle, On the Road should be considered as one of the most important American novels of the last century. To coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of its UK publication in 1958, the original manuscript is now on show for the first time in Europe at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham.

Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road in just three weeks on teletype paper which forms a single scroll about 150 feet long. Until the 28th of January visitors of the exhibition can tilt their head to read about a seventh of its full glory.The exhibition also hosts some fascinating maps of the road trip, posters, photographs and various jazz records.

Speaking from one who has read the legend of the novel on the humble streets of Birmingham, On the Road brings with it a fitting reminder of an excitement for life: something we may easily forget within today's often depressing climate.

It's the soul of the Beat generation:

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn.

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