Irsay buys Kerouac's original in auction

Manuscript: Colts owner pays $2.4 million for the Beat writer's `On The Road' paper scroll.

May 23, 2001|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

NEW YORK - The scroll on which Jack Kerouac wrote "On The Road," the novel that defined the 1950s Beat Generation, sold for $2.4 million yesterday at Christie's.

James Irsay, owner and chief executive of the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League, purchased the scroll. The price was an auction record for a literary manuscript, Christie's officials said.

"I look at it as a stewardship," said Irsay, whose father Robert moved the NFL team from Baltimore to Indianapolis. "I don't believe you own anything in this world. It's a great thing and for Jack, wherever his spiritual vibes are floating around, he can feel good about it."

Irsay said he planned to exhibit the scroll in the United States in 2007, 50 years after the book was published.

The single roll of paper, 119 feet 8 inches long, was the first draft of Kerouac's novel about his travels across the United States. Viking Press published the book in 1957 to critical acclaim. Christie's had anticipated selling it for $1 million to $1.5 million.

Kerouac, along with Allen Ginsberg, was in the forefront of a group of American writers, poets and artists known as the Beat Generation who rejected mainstream values. He created the scroll in 1951 by taping together 12-foot-long strips of Teletype paper.

"I'm going to get me a roll of shelf-paper, feed it into the typewriter, and just write it down as fast as I can, exactly like it happened, all in a rush," Kerouac told his friend, John Clellon Holmes, another Beat writer, according to Holmes' book, "Nothing To Declare."

Kerouac died in 1969 at 47.

The scroll bears Kerouac's typed cross-outs, red ink scratches through blocks of edited text, and scribbled notes written in pencil. The end of the scroll is missing a segment that was chewed and torn by a dog, which Kerouac noted as "DOG ATE (Potchky - a dog)."

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