Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road in three very short weeks in 1951. But then it took six years for the book, famously written on a long scroll, to reach the reading public in 1957.
Shortly after its publication, critics were at least quick to recognize what the book meant. One New York Times reviewer called it “the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as beat.”
Another saw in the novel “a descriptive excitement unmatched since the days of Thomas Wolfe.” 54 years later, those early reviews have withstood the proverbial test of time. These days, Modern Library and TIME place the novel on their lists of the 100 greatest novels.
And now onto our vintage clip of the day - Jack Kerouac, the man himself, appearing on The Steve Allen Show in 1959, first fielding some questions, then reading from his beat classic. Of course, you’ll find this clip in our collection of 275 Cultural Icons.
Bonus: Yale’s course, The American Novel Since 1945, features two lectures dedicated to On the Road. More on that here.