William Burroughs got it right when he wrote Jack Kerouac “opened a million coffee shops and sold a million pairs of Levis.” Kerouac and his novel On The Road primed the culture for the Beats and later the ascension of the hippies and the 1960s counterculture. The actual literary influence of Kerouac, and the Beats in general, is still open to debate.I always thought their lives were more noteworthy than their books, although Kerouac’s lyrical abilities and his great sensitivity to the American landscape and the imagination of its people was unique.
Director Francis Ford Coppola bought the rights to the novel more than 40 years ago and it has been a decades-long struggle to get the movie produced.
And while the publication and critical reception of On the Road was a major coup for Kerouac, he was already in steep decline by 1957 from heavy drinking.
Here is Kerouac reading from On the Road for the Steve Allen Show in 1959. In this clip you get a sense of his natural shyness as well as the gloominess he suffered from at the end of his life.