Pilgrimage

(i just spent an hour on this and the internet ate it…oh well)

I nipped over to Lowell, MA to pick up a few things for sicpress, and figured i’d pop into the Boott Cotton Mill Museum to check out the Hope Diamond of manuscripts: the Kerouac Scroll.

Only about 20 feet of the 120 scroll is unfurled. It lies under low light in a bulletproof, alarmed, temp controlled, display case about waist high. Its heavily damaged ends have been repaired and laid onto tissue paper, the several large tears I could see were repaired invisibly. The ‘scroll’ is actually several rolls of a tracing paper taped together and when laid out like this you can see a pattern in the text. The typewriter fed at a minute angle, and every 2 feet or so, Kerouac would have had to unlock the platen and realign the page.

I was surprised not to see more hand corrections, as a matter of fact there are minimal notations on the scroll that I could see. I looked for and found tiny penciled paragraph notations for the benefit of the transcriber.

Also on display are items from the Kerouac Estate: a hat, several dozen books, mostly his own, a few record albums, some religious icons, a few personal photos and of course a typewriter. I am beginning to think Kerouac’s typewriter is like Jesse James’ six guns – more are ascribed than perhaps used.

The proctor was a shy yet perky lit major named Jeff on a summer internship. (I think the shy is because I’m relatively loud) We were musing on how few book ‘proctoring’ opportunities there are in the US. Unlike fine and modern art museums which pop up whenever a filthy rich person croaks, most of the historically exciting books and manuscripts are locked up. Most likely because the cost of displaying them securely and safely outweighs the general publics interest in seeing them. Alas we are not all biblio-geeks.

Among the brochures available are a program of events and a Kerouac walking tour map of Lowell with all vaguely pertinent locations pointed out. Though there are many writers & poet based events scheduled for the entire summer I find it all oddly ironic . . . maybe it’s me but sticking Kerouac’s words in a glass case in a National Park is oddly akin to the FCC building a shrine to Lenny Bruce. Now, if they spent the summer transcribing his words on the outside of buildings. . . .

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