Getting Inside Jack Kerouac’s Head

Simon Morris

Price £8.99+pp
ISBN 978-1-907468-02-5
Year 2010
Edition 500
Pages 324
Binding perfect bound; full colour illustrated cover; text only inside

Morris’ new bookwork, Getting Inside Jack Kerouac’s Head, is a performative retyping of the recently published original scroll edition of Jack Kerouac’s beat classic, On the Road. Morris’ project first appeared as an ongoing journey through the book, read and re-typed on a WordPress blog one page per day. This newly published codex version pours the content of that performative retyping back into the format of the paperback source book. It follows the default logic of a blog archive to put the last post / page at the start and stores the rest of the entries in reverse order. In other words, whereas Kerouac traveled from the East coast to the West coast, Morris crosses America from West to East.

Retyping On the Road is not only a remarkable performance — of endurance, concentration, and apprenticeship — it is also a deadpan experiment in textual literary criticism. Kerouac’s original typescript was oriented toward the writer: a jury-rigged roll of sheets taped together to give the illusion of continuous textual flow (whereas a true “scroll,” properly speaking, would allow one to move forward and backward, and thus would have been in the service of a reader). Morris’ practice collapses reader and writer, reorienting Kerouac’s typescript to the digital, discontinuous unit of the published codex page. In doing so, Morris both inverts Kerouac’s style of production — pecking slowly and methodically where his predecessor sped along at a reputed one-hundred-words-per-benzedrine-fuelled-minute — and he simultaneously fulfills its legend. The annotated details of Kerouac’s typescript belie the Beat ideology of unconstrained spontaneity and improvisation; it is pockmarked with revisions and edits and polishing. Morris, on the other hand, hews to the adage “first thought, best thought” with an unflinching allegiance. A constrained and unexpressive homage to the era that heralded unconstrained and improvisatory expressionism, Getting Inside Jack Kerouac’s Head showcases the critical power of the extended techniques of conceptually rigorous “uncreative writing.” In the process it reclaims Truman Capote’s Parthian shot as a point of pride: “it isn’t writing at all — it’s typing.” And type — as Kerouac used the word in On the Road — is all about genre.”

Professor Craig Dworkin, University of Utah

Getting Inside Jack Kerouac’s Head

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