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Into the Mind of Jack Kerouac

By Natalie Grant, USA, June 2011

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There are cities aplenty that have inspired the works of literary greats. One can picture Hemmingway sipping a cocktail in an outdoor café in Paris, Dickens mulling over his prose by candlelight in London, Lermontov imagining Moscow while he wrote his romantic poetry… but Orlando, Florida doesn’t pop up in most people’s minds as a particularly bookish location in comparison.

Truth be told, literary legend Jack Kerouac did a small bit of prolific scribbling in 1957 from a little cottage in College Park, where he lived with his mother. This fact wasn’t discovered, or at least widely acknowledged, until around fifteen years ago when a reporter tracked it down, catalyzing the Kerouac Project.

Kerouac, an alcoholic and college dropout, did more than just make up a significant part of the “Beat Generation” with his novel On the Road – he actually came up with the term himself, which was subsequently used to describe a generation of young adults who found enlightenment in drug use, promiscuity, and Eastern spirituality.

The Orange County History Center has announced that beginning June 23rd, 2011, Kerouac’s original manuscript for The Dharma Bums – which he wrote while living in Orlando – will be on display, along with then-current photographs of him and notes to his editor in his own handwriting.

Potential visitors to Orlando who are in the midst of writing the next great novel might consider applying to the Kerouac Project’s Residency Program, which allows four people a year to live in Kerouac’s home for a period of three months each while they scribble away (food stipend and utilities included). Let the angsty inspiration flow!

Photo by Tom Palumbo

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