Kerouac manuscript hits road

— Like the highway that inspired it, the first draft of author Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" rolls over nearly 120 feet of paper, a wandering narrative told in a continuous block of text.

Yellowed with age, smudged with editing marks and the author's own ink-covered fingerprints, the scroll is a relic of a literary phenomenon.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay bought the scroll two years ago for $2.43 million. Having already been on display in Indianapolis, Irsay plans to send what may be the Beat Generation's quintessential text back to the road from where it came.

Beginning this week at the Orange County History Center in Orlando, Fla., and ending with a three-month stay at the New York Public Library in 2007, Kerouac's "On the Road" scroll will make a 13-stop, four-year national tour of museums and libraries.

The tour schedule was not available Tuesday.

"My goal all along was to have it and share it with all those who want to see it, whether it's in this country or other countries," Irsay said.

In a conversation after he bought the scroll with director Cameron Crowe and journalist Hunter S. Thompson, Irsay said they discussed the manuscript's continued relevance as a chronicle of American discovery.

Kerouac wrote the novel in a coffee-saturated, 21-day typewriter marathon at a friend's apartment in New York City in 1951. When finally published six years later, it won critical acclaim as an unconventional masterpiece, defining a post-World War II generation of intellectual outlaws on an aimless, odyssey across the American landscape.

But while some -- including The New York Times -- praised its publication, others dismissed it. "That's not writing. That's typing," Truman Capote said of Kerouac's book.

When Kerouac died, his estate was reportedly valued at less than $100. The scroll passed hands and wound up in the New York Public Library before being put up for auction.

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