“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved . . . the ones who . . . burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles." Like his character Sal Paradise in On the Road, Jack Kerouac was restless to discover himself in postwar America. His stream-of-consciousness writing style flowed like jazz, encompassing but not always embracing the Beat generation of the 1950s.
Hitchhiking with friend Neil Cassady gave birth to On the Road (1957), which became an instant success. The book, like the roads he traveled, embodied Kerouac's marathon urge to create, having been typed on a continuous roll of taped-together paper measuring 120 feet in length. Troubled by fame, critics, and his inability to break free of beatnik stereotypes, Kerouac sought solace in alcohol, which led to his early death.
Jack Kerouac / Frederick W. McDarrah / Gelatin silver print,1959 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution © Fred W. McDarrah