Joy of editing Jack Kerouac manuscript

December 24, 2008

posted by Caroline Picard; the original site for this article can be seen here.


Joy of editing Jack Kerouac


Dr Howard Cunnell
Published Date:
07 September 2007

The famous scroll manuscript of a bestselling novel has been edited by an Eastbourne man. The previously unpublished first full length draft of Jack Kerouac’s novel On The Road was written in three weeks in April 1951.

A later version went on to become one of the best-selling novels of the 20th century.

Dr Howard Cunnell, born in Eastbourne in 1964, was invited to edit the 50th anniversary edition of the novel.

The former pupil of Eastbourne Grammar School said to be asked was a major accolade, prompted by a paper he gave at the USA Jack Kerouac Conference on Beat Literature in October 2005.

He said, “Reading Kerouac’s great novel of self-transformation, freedom, and self-realisation when I was 16 years old and living in Eastbourne had a huge and enduring impact on my life.

“A religious seeker and a writer of dreams and visions Kerouac is a source in that sense, if you are fixed on seeking answers, and once that kind of light goes on in your house it’s likely to stay on.

“Reading the novel put me on the road in all senses, and continues to inform the how and the why of my life.

“Editing the previously unpublished scroll manuscript, one of the most celebrated and mythical artefacts in contemporary American literature, has been a great privilege and joyous responsibility.”

Dr Cunnell, whose mother lives in Pevensey, teaches Creative Writing and American Literature at Kingston University.

He was awarded a PhD from Institute of United States Studies, University of London, in 2004, for a study of American Prison Writing and now lives in Brixton, London, with his wife, the actress Adjoa Andoh, and their three daughters.

Apart from writing he has worked as a bookseller, scuba diving instructor and guide, lifeguard, building worker and has just completed a novel set in Eastbourne at the time he was growing up — entitled Marine Boy Meets the Skinheads Uptown.

He is writing his second novel and, with fellow Eastbourne writer Matthew Loukes, researching a history of London tattooing for publication by Soul Bay Books in 2008/9.

Dr Cunnell will speak at a celebration of the life and work of Jack Kerouac at the British Library on September 17.

The book was published in the UK by Penguin Classics on September 5.


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