DescriptionJack Kerouac (John Louis Kerouac). Original Typescript of The Dharma Bums (published October 2, 1958), typed by Kerouac himself from his original scroll manuscript.1 This is the very draft Kerouac submitted to his publisher Viking Press in January 1958. 200 pages plus a cover, (numbered 1-197 plus 116a; 117a; and 193a), on 8 1/2 x 11 inch pages, the text double-spaced. Kerouac notes in red pen: "Dharma Bums Ms. (with Viking Press Changes that I rejected)"; and "Dharma Bums MS with Viking Press Changes I rejected" on the front cover and first page of text, respectively. All additional markings appear to be by Viking Press editors in blue pencil and regular graphite pencil. Despite Jack Kerouac's emphatic statement in red ink on the front of this typescript: "Dharma Bums MS with Viking Press Changes I rejected", there are substantial changes and corrections in the typescript that did end up in the published book. Whether aspects of Viking's edit survived because Jack Kerouac missed them in the Galley or saw them and allowed them to stand, the end result is the corrected Galley proof submitted back to Viking was Kerouac's preferred final version of the novel, and became the published book. The fact that there are corrections in the typescript that made it into the final novel is fantastic. We would have preferred that those changes were in Kerouac's hand, but at least we know that the corrections were seen by him on the galley proofs, and became the final version of one of him most important books.
Thumb smudges here and there throughout (possibly Kerouac's), some folded corners and occasional dampstains. Generally, the typescript is in very good condition considering it was likely handled by a good number of people. One page (160) with large tear along right edge, just touching one letter of text. Last two pages (196 & 197) have heavier wear, with creases, edge tears, cellophane tape residue and some darkening to the paper. Some pages with typed words or lines on the rear, usually including the page number at top, which appears to be a mistake or false-start by Kerouac and not a continuation or additional original text (sometimes these portions typed on both sides are the same, and Mr. Kerouac likely forgot that he had already started, for example, page 49). A number of pages have typed portions cut out from a separate sheet and adhered to a new page with cellophane tape (now deteriorated and perishing, with just residue left in some places; these mounted on darker and/or browned paper), pages 111, 112, 113, 115, 116, 160, 193a, and 197 now protected in archival sleeves.
1 The location and ownership of the original scroll is unknown. It sold privately in April 2003 to an anonymous buyer.
Although completed in 1951, On the Road did not find a publisher until Viking purchased it in 1957. It is important to note that Kerouac's original manuscript was heavily edited; sexually explicit passages were removed, and names were changed. At this stage in his career, Kerouac was in no position to push back against any of the proposed edits. Broken and anxious, Kerouac moved to a small bungalow in Orlando, Florida in July; with his mother as his only companionship, Kerouac awaited the release of his novel.
On the Road was released in September 1957 and was an instant success with the critics. The New York Times proclaimed Kerouac the voice of his generation, and Kerouac experienced an immediate surge of fame and success. Wanting to capitalize on the success of On the Road, Viking suggested that Kerouac write a sequel.
Kerouac had already been pondering his next writing project. What may be the first iteration of the title (the earliest that we found) appeared in a letter to Gary Snyder, dated April 3, 1957, from Tangier. Kerouac mentioned that he "was lying in bed contemplating next novel THE DHARMA BUMS, which is mostly about you, my freight hop to Frisco in Fall 1955 and meeting you and the Gallery 6 poetry and our climb of Matterhorn with John Montgomery and all about Avalokitesvara)" (Selected Letters, page 27).
In late May 1957, Jack wrote to his agent, Sterling Lord, describing his new book: "I've just started and am working furiously on a new narrative adventure (I dont write 'novels,' as you know), the title: AVALOKITESVARA, which is a picaresque account of how I discovered Buddha and what happened in my experiences, often hilarious, as an American Dharma Bum (or bhikku, wandering religious teacher)....It has all kinds of hitch hiking scenes, girls, new characters I've never written about (such as Gary Snyder who wanders in the mountains alone for months and comes down to, among other things, organize Tibetan yabyum orgies with the girls), railroads, wine, dialog, the story of the San Francisco poetry movement which began one drunken night, my meditations in the North Carolina woods, all written in a wild undisciplined way which is consistent with the spirit of the freedom of Tao (the Chinese Way). Perhaps it'll take 10 years to publish it but we'll see how ON THE ROAD sells, from which it wont be too different except in style, to which people'll catch up-I just get possessed and write as I wist, which is the only way" (Jack Kerouac Selected Letters 1957-1969, page 44).
Kerouac sat down to type the original scroll for The Dharma Bums on November 26, 1957. Fueled by drugs and alcohol, and working 18 hours at a stretch, he completed the manuscript 11 days later on December 7. Two days later, Kerouac wrote a letter to his editor Malcolm Cowley: "I'm mighty proud to let you know that I have just finished a new novel, written like On the Road on a 100 foot roll of paper, single space, cup after cup of coffee, the last chapter infinitely more sublime than anything in Road and the whole thing quite different..." (Benedict F. Giamo, Kerouac, the Word and the Way: Prose Artist as Spiritual Quester (2000), pages 131-132).
Like On the Road, The Dharma Bums was originally typed on a continuous roll of paper. Written almost as stream of consciousness; almost, but for the months of preparation in the form of journals and notebooks that provided a solid point of reference for the author. The similarities end there. The success of On the Road dramatically changed Kerouac's life. In January 1958 Fred DeWitt, on assignment for Time magazine, photographed Kerouac as he typed the text from the The Dharma Bums scroll onto individual sheets for the purpose of submitting it to Viking Press. That is the very typescript offered here.
The manuscript is subsequently submitted to Viking, and by March 1958, Kerouac has received positive feedback. "Kerouac composed a blissful note to Keith Jennison there, who had told him that the editors at Viking, hoping for another bestseller like On the Road, were putting the book into production immediately" (Selected Letters, page 135). An undated letter to Keith Jennison at Viking reads: "Thanx for warm report on The Dharma Bums...I wrote it thinking of you, that you'd love all that outdoor business we did...I pictured you and Malcolm [Cowley] chuckling over it. I didn't know you'd cry...But since I cried when I re-read it (don't know why) guess you can cry too" (Selected Letters, page 136). Malcolm Cowley had worked with Kerouac on On the Road, and Kerouac mistakenly assumed Malcolm would be editing Dharma Bums.
In a letter to Philip Whalen, postmarked March 4, 1958, Kerouac wrote: "My ms. about Gary you & me & Dharma Bummies has flipped Madison Avenue over, they plan it for the Fall with full trimings...they all read it twice not once...it is loaded with bodhisattva magic, nagically [sic]...a must book of the list of every freelance ghost, et. etc." (Selected Letters, page 165).
Kerouac's enthusiasm for the project would soon sour. The first galleys for Dharma Bums were delivered to the author in June 1958. Kerouac was dismayed by the number of edits. The standardization of his writing completely changed the work. No longer an unknown author, Kerouac pushed back and demanded that Viking restore his original text. Helen Taylor, who had replaced Malcolm Cowley as his editor, refused to abandon the galleys, and asked him to mark it 'exactly as you want it.' (Selected Letters, page 144).
In a letter to Joyce Glassman written during this period he writes: "I had to go to NY the other day mad as a hatter to contest Viking's shitty idea of making as much as 4,000 corrections on Dharma Bums. They said copy-editing hadnt hurt ROAD but that was a short-sentence style that couldnt be hurt. They agreed first to start all over again, I told them at my expense too, to prove to them I meant it, now after I'm back home they start to hedge and want me to go over the galleys and make my 4,000 restorations to the original (hardly any room in the margins) and finally now the damn galley aint arrived in the mail from them and if they are trying to sneak over their ersatz version of DB on me they've lost a writer..." (Selected Letters, page 145).
Kerouac made his corrections to the galleys and returned them to Viking on June 18, 1958. In the accompanying letter to Helen Taylor he explains the changes: "Here are the galleys exactly as I want them published. I want to be called in to see the final galley and check it again against my original scroll, since I'm paying for this and my reputation depends on it. I want to make sure we put out a book we can really be proud of. Just leave the secrets of syntax and narrative to me... Anyway, now I'm starting on new novel MEMORY BABE and when I hand in the neat doublespaced ms. I want you to go over it for the ten or twelve 'mistakes' or 'serious problems' in it and we'll thrash out, but no more irresponsible copy-editing of my Mark Twain Huckleberry Finn prose" (Selected Letters, page 149). Kerouac was never given the opportunity to review the galleys for On the Road, and he was adamant about not ending up in the same situation with Dharma Bums.
It is not known when the original typescript submitted to Viking was returned to Kerouac, and it is possible that Kerouac used it to restore the galleys to their original state. But it can be asserted that the manuscript embodies Kerouac's stance against Viking. The author defiantly notes on the cover sheet as well as on the first page that he has rejected all of their edits. The bold red ink screams his opposition.
After reviewing Kerouac's changes, Taylor wrote to him on June 24, 1958: "this has been quite a brouhaha, hasn't it, but now we know." (Selected Letters, page 144).
THE KEROUAC PROJECT
This literary treasure is consigned by The Kerouac Project of Orlando for the purpose of funding their primary mission: supporting future generations of writers and artists inspired by the work and legacy of Jack Kerouac. The Kerouac Project is a registered 501(c) non-profit group that invites aspiring writers to live in the Orlando, Florida house where Kerouac wrote The Dharma Bums. The house (located at 1418 1/2 Clouser Street) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been visited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, actor Michael York, Carolyn Cassady and Steve Allen, among many other notable figures.
The Kerouac Project has its origin in an accidental discovery by Bob Kealing, a writer and reporter with a local TV news station in Orlando. In 1996 Kealing learned that Kerouac had lived in an Orlando cottage in 1957. It was in this very cottage that he typed the original draft of his novel The Dharma Bums, which many believe to be Jack Kerouac's best book. After Kealing wrote a story in 1997 about Kerouac's experience in College Park, a group of like-minded residents bought the house and founded the Jack Kerouac Writers in Residence Project of Orlando. As part of its ongoing educational mission, the group also purchased the original edited typescript of The Dharma Bums from Kerouac's estate in 2005.
The eventual buyer of this manuscript will not only have the honor of adding this treasure to their collection, they will also be materially furthering Kerouac's original aesthetic through support of the Project's mission. For more information about The Kerouac Project, visit their website at www.kerouacproject.org.
Kerouac original scrolls or typescripts rarely come up for sale, and this is the first Heritage Auctions has had the opportunity to offer.
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