Wednesday, August 22, 2007

ROCKIN' thru time with Jack Kerouac's classic ON THE ROAD, as seen thru the many book jackets

(above) USA 1997
(above) Netherlands 1999
(above) Brazil 1997
(above) Turkey, 1993
(above) Netherlands 2006
(above) USA 1968
(above) Israel 1988
(above) Portugal 1960
(above) Poland 1993
(above) Spain 1983
(above) USA 2003
(above) Croatia 1997
(above) Greece 1981
(above) Brazil 1984
(above) Germany 1998
(above) Netherlands 1989

(above) Italy 1989
(above) Czech 1980
(above) Slovenia 1998
(above) Hungary 1999
(above) Italy 2000
(above) Estonia 1996

(above) Finland 1964
(above) USA 1990
(above) Italy 1994
(above) Norway 1992
(above) USA (Viking Press 1st ed.) 1957
(above) Neal Cassady, San Francisco, 1957
(photo Larry Keenan)
(above) Kerouac's self-drawn proposed book jacket 1952
(above) part of Kerouac's NY Times obit, 1970

This month, Viking Press, Jack Kerouac's original US publisher of ON THE ROAD, issued the "Original Scroll" edition. In 1951, Kerouac "feverishly pounded out the first draft in three weeks on a single huge roll of paper," as noted in the recent NY Times Book Review.
As many of this blog's readers know, ON THE ROAD was based on Kerouac's encounters with Neal Cassady (shown to left and above), called Dean Moriarty in the novel. Later, Cassady appeared as a key character with Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, and an amazing photo of Cassady driving the FURTHUR (or FURTHER) bus appears on page 144 of ROCKIN'.
As noted at, "The Viking edition of ON THE ROAD was Kerouac's third attempt at writing his road novel. The first was begun in November, 1948 and featured hero Ray Smith. This as abandoned, and a second version started in March, 1949 with hero Ray "Red" Moultrie. Further attempts were made in 1950, but proved to be false starts. It was only after Kerouac was inspired by the letters of Neal Cassady in late 1950 that he sought to write in a similar free-flowing style, the result of which was the famous scroll version of April, 1951, which became the basis of the published version.
"Kerouac was, however, still dissatisfied with the result and, having been introduced to the concept of "sketching" with words in the fall of 1951, he began working on yet another version of his road book, completing it while staying at the Cassady home in San Francisco in the early months of 1952. Originally titled VISIONS OF NEAL, the book, which included a rewrite of the main events discribed in its forerunner, was only published in its complete form, as VISIONS OF CODY, three years after Kerouac's death, in 1973.
The New York Times also included in its August 19, 2007 Book Review a selection of book jackets from around the world, with the advice that the readers should Google-up "Jack Kerouac Book Covers" and find the stash maintained by Kerouac scholar Dave Moore. A small selection of the art is shown above.
Interesting--for me--is the wide range of interpretations. This reminded me that my father, Philip Grushkin, in his early stages as a graphic artist in New York (the early 1950s), was tasked with airbrushing book jacket concepts for many publishers' art departments and editors. Often he would produce 4 - 6 wholly different concepts, and this was decades before the computer, Photoshop, and other programs which would have made this much easier (but not necessarily better or more imaginative).
My Dad passed away a number of years ago, and afterwards in his archive I found many variations on his now-classic book jackets (he was top dog in the City, and later became Art Director for the world's largest artbook publisher, Harry N. Abrams). To this day I can walk you down the fiction area in any public library and, by the spines of the books published in the l950s and 60s, tell you who the graphic artist was. That's how powerful image-making has always been for me.

No comments: