|On the Road: The Original Scroll
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The legendary 1951 scroll draft of On the Road, published word for word as Kerouac originally composed it
Though Jack Kerouac began thinking about the novel that was to become On the Road as early as 1947, it was not until three weeks in April 1951, in an apartment on West Twentieth Street in Manhattan, that he wrote the first full draft that was satisfactory to him. Typed out as one long, single-spaced paragraph on eight long sheets of tracing paper that he later taped together to form a 120-foot scroll, this document is among the most significant, celebrated, and provocative artifacts in contemporary American literary history. It represents the first full expression of Kerouac's revolutionary aesthetic, the identifiable point at which his thematic vision and narrative voice came together in a sustained burst of creative energy. It was also part of a wider vital experimentation in the American literary, musical, and visual arts in the post-World War II period.
It was not until more than six years later, and several new drafts, that Viking published, in 1957, the novel known to us today. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of On the Road, Viking will publish the 1951 scroll in a standard book format. The differences between the two versions are principally ones of significant detail and altered emphasis. The scroll is slightly longer and has a heightened linguistic virtuosity and a more sexually frenetic tone. It also uses the real names of Kerouac's friends instead of the fictional names he later invented for them. The transcription of the scroll was done by Howard Cunnell who, along with Joshua Kupetz, George Mouratidis, and Penny Vlagopoulos, provides a critical introduction that explains the fascinating compositional and publication history of On the Road and anchors the text in its historical, political, and social context.
Celebrating 50 Years of On the Road
| ||A 50th anniversary hardcover edition of Kerouac's classic novel that defined a generation. On the Road is the quintessential American vision of freedom and hope, a book that changed American literature and changed anyone who has ever picked it up.|| || |
| ||Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think): John Leland, author of Hip: A History argues that On the Road still matters not for its youthful rebellion but because it is full of lessons about how to grow up.|| |
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From the back cover of On the Road: The Original Scroll: Jack Kerouac displaying one of his later scroll manuscripts, most likely The Dharma Bums
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Kerouac's map of his first hitchhiking trip, July-October 1947 (click image to see the full map)
Original New York Times review of On the Road (click image to see the full review)
"The legendary 1951 scroll draft of On the Road, published word for word as Kerouac originally composed it. Though Jack Kerouac began thinking about the novel that was to become On the Road as early as 1947, it was not until three weeks in April 1951, in an apartment on West Twentieth Street in Manhattan, that he wrote the first full draft that was satisfactory to him. Typed out as one long, single-spaced paragraph on eight long sheets of tracing paper that he later taped together to form a 120 foot scroll, this document is among the most significant, celebrated, and provocative artifacts in contemporary American literary history. It represents the first full expression of Kerouac's revolutionary aesthetic, the identifiable point at which his thematic vision and narrative voice came together in a sustained burst of creative energy. It was also part of a wider vital experimentation in the American literary, musical, and visual arts in the post-World War II period. It was not until more than six years later, and several new drafts, that Viking published, in 1957, the novel known to us today. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of On the Road, Viking will publish the 1951 scroll in a standard book format. The differences between the two versions are principally ones of significant detail and altered emphasis. The scroll is slightly longer and has a heightened linguistic virtuosity and a more sexually frenetic tone. It also uses the real names of Kerouac's friends instead of the fictional names he later invented for them. The transcription of the scroll was done by Howard Cunnell who, along with Joshua Kupetz, George Mouratidis, and Penny Vlagopoulos, provides a critical introduction that explains the fascinating compositional and publication history of On the Road and anchors the text in its historical, political, and social context."
- On the Road The Way It Was Meant To Be
This is it. The definitive version of Kerouac's Magnus Opus. If there was ever a book that captured the fast times and antics of the Beat Generation, it definitely has to be On the Road. The Original Scroll is the definitive version, not only because its uncensored and raw, but because it fulfilled Kerouac's desires to the fullest extent. This version reads like a car that's doing 100 miles per hour in the dark, rain pouring down, hearts racing, and has no stop in sight. If you've read the standard edition, you know the book is divided into four parts with chapters in between. The Original Scroll has NO chapters. The book reads on and on and this really adds to incredible effect of the reading experience. This book was intended to be read in one continuous reading, as Kerouac indeed wrote the book in one continuous moment. Simply put, the book is legend and one has to read this edition to fully appreciate Kerouac's true vision of it. It is, without a doubt, one hell of a ride. ...more info
- Easy to put down hard to pick back up!!!!!!
Even more boring than the original published editions. Everyone who met Jack was relieved when he moved on. He was a rude ignorant boring drunk and his experiences of trying to decide which U.S. road to take are just not readable. The writing is crude and the b.s. with people trying to make the "beat" generation somehow admirable is a mystery. The humdrum experiences of a loser are not entertaining or even mildly interesting so what generates all the hype? He had no concept of love except perhaps for himself and even that is weak. Not even a dog much less a real human love affair. Much of his attempts to stay "straight" and not show the real "closet" Jack are what generates all the faux sex stories. Whining that he is lonely while his mum and wife are somewhere else begs the question as to why are they someplace else???
The "Beat" generation is a fake and very artificial idea. A small number of people acting out failed lives while most people were struggling to do something positive with their lives. I see current day homeless with more entertaining stories than this and they are often considered mental. (But they have cell phones so I often wonder who they talk to?)
I love the hype about the endless typing paper taped together. People who buy this don't know much about typewriters of that era. My take is the taping was done after the typing of individual pages.
Suggest reading it will be an excellent choice for insomniacs.
drlee ...more info
- A highwayscribery "Book Report"
The continent "groans" again and again.
The night is too often "sad," the cities are "mad" or "wild" and "sad" some more. New York is the "edge of the continent," and San Francisco, too and sometimes they're the "rim of the world," or some similar allusion.
Jack Kerouac and his friends, hanging outside New York City's Harmony Bar, would be considered drunks and losers by the standards of most. The author's muse and messiah, Neal Cassady, is a fellow too easily distracted, undisciplined and, by today's measurements, a candidate for depression medication.
In the recently released "scroll" version of "On the Road," Cassady's criminal bent and complete disregard for his friends' concerns or the safety of strangers are drawn in much starker contrast than they are in the (we now know for sure) much toned-down Viking Press version of the 1950s.
But it works and wonderfully so.
Whatever the personal flaws of the roadgoers, and they are multiple, whatever the prosodic sins of their faithful secretary Jack, equally numerous, The Scroll is blessed with energy and truth and dynamism, a beatific rhythm and sound that hold up, even though 50 years on we've read it all before.
But where what was once novel becomes clich¨¦ with the passing of time, The Scroll takes on enhanced value as snapshot of a country long-disappeared.
The Scroll contains a hundred pages more than the edited "On the Road," and that's a lot of adventure and resulting ruminations, as Kerouac takes us to Denver and San Francisco, and back out to New York and down to North Carolina, back up again, and then down through Louisiana back up to San Francisco, New York again and finally through Texas to damp and sexy San Antonio before shooting through "biblical" Mexico, now gone, too.
Even the "normal" people in this frantic tome, those with wives and jobs they stick with are not like us anymore, working on ships and in factories as they do, abiding in company towns and city centers.
The Scroll is a sweeping panorama of America and of thought beaten out on teletype paper by a guy on speed; maybe drug speed, maybe coffee, but probably something else that burned out of Kerouac like heavy kerosene and which caused his death when the last vapors rose from his being and poofed out into the dusty firmament.
It has politics without the jeremiads and program points, just whole manifestoes in a masterful word-stroke such as "sullen unions," a flavor and entire reality nailed to the mind's wall.
"The American police are involved in psychological warfare against those Americans who don't frighten them with imposing papers and threats. There's no defense. Poor people have their lives interfered with ad infinitum by these neurotic busybodies. It's a Victorian police force; it peers out of musty windows and wants to inquire about everything, and can make crimes if the crimes don't exist to their satisfaction."
It is loving landscape portraiture as in this passage laid down about Neal, his "whore wife" Luanne (meant here as flattery), and Jack's departure from New Orleans:
"Port Allen -- Poor Allen -- where the river's all rain and roses in a misty pinpoint darkness and where we swung around a circular drive in yellow foglight and suddenly saw the great black body below a bridge and crossed eternity again. What is the Mississippi River -- a washed clod in the rainy night, a soft plopping from drooping Missouri banks, a dissolving, a riding of the tide down the eternal waterbed, a contribution to brown foams, a voyaging past endless vales and trees and levees down, down along, down along, by Memphis, Greenville, Eudora, Vicksburg, Natchez, Port Allen, and Port Orleans and Point of the Deltas, by Venice and the Night's Great Gulf out. So the stars shine warm in the Gulf of Mexico at night. From the soft and thunderous Carib comes electricity, and from the continental Divide where rain and rivers are decided come swirls, and the little raindrop that in Dakota fell and gathered mud and roses rises resurrected from the sea and flies on back to go and bloom again in waving mells of the Mississippi's bed, and lives again."
The passage lies almost exactly at the book's midpoint; stands as strong backbone to all the word swirling before and after, a fine spine, like the Mississippi in its marriage with the landscape.
Everywhere lively applications, symbols, poetry pulled from the very map that is America, multiple magic in Missouri and Mississippi, no invention with Port Orleans and Point of the Deltas, by Potash, and Venice, just the natural ordering of an evident and obvious song about the land itself.
Early on in this passage the prose become unnecessary, the point made, ripe for a Madison Avenue editor's pen. But gripped by the author's sweaty hand, we are yanked along, pointed here and there on the keyboard toward ecstatic sites he has taken the time to see for us.
Can the Carib be both soft and thunderous? Does the oscillation between them make electricity? On paper it does. Is there such a thing as a mell or does his easy resort to something that sings make it go down so much easier, and isn't that part of the job?
Mell is a swell on the Mississippi and we know that, even if we didn't before.
It is not easy to sift through all the postmodern swill that has come after and still be awed at the pure audacity of Kerouac; the audacity to make up words, to appear at his New York editor's office sweating and stinking of chemical ooze with a manuscript written on 120 feet of rolled paper demanding respect of The Scroll as if it were plumbed from Dead Sea depths.
So goes it with the aspiring philosopher whom, even if he is a bum, still philosophizes for all of us and not just for those of high brow and intentions:
"death will overtake us before heaven. The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced -- tho we hate to admit it -- in death. But who wants to die. More of this later."
Beyond bum philosophy or travel writing The Scroll renders social commentary still relevant today:
"On the sidewalk characters swarmed. Everybody was looking at everybody else. It was the end of the continent no more land. Somebody had tipped America like a pinball machine and all the goofballs had come rolling to LA in the southwest corner. I cried for all of us. There was no end to the American sadness and the American madness. Someday we'll all start laughing and roll on the ground when we realize how funny it's been. Until then there is a lugubrious seriousness I love in all of this."
There's that "end of the continent" bit while "sadness and madness" appear elsewhere in a vignette of Kerouac's entitled "October In the Railroad Earth," as "end of the land sadness end of the land gladness" not precisely alike, but essentially the same literary trick.
Yet if you're hip to all of this, if you can dig it and know time, then it's not lack of imagination so much as your favorite band playing the same songs at a second show. And Kerouac likened his writing to "blowing," which is what the trumpeters and saxophoners of his time did, in fact, do.
And then there's Neal; stripped of Dean Moriarity's mask and draped in a legend Cassady came to embody for three generations of misspent youths, stealing four cars at a roadhouse party outside Denver, denied entry into the homes of kith and kin alike, boy to his father's bum and disappeared dad, wrangler, brakeman, seducer of everybody else's girlfriends (and boyfriends), absentee father himself.
Says "Naked Lunch" author William Burroughs of Cassady when they visit him in the Louisiana swamps, "He seems to be headed for his ideal fate, which is compulsive psychosis dashed with a jigger of psychopathic irresponsibility and violence."
Pretty smart fellow Bill Burroughs, as were they all, in spite of their nasty habits.
Cassady floats free of all preconceived notions regarding expected behavior, free of the bars other attempt to bind him with through holy judgments...part-time N.Y. hipster and happy pervert to Kerouac's ambiguous French-Catholic curiosities.
"He lived with Diane in a coldwater flat in the East Seventies. When he came home at night he took off all his clothes and put on a hiplength Chinese silk jacket and sat in his easy chair to smoke a waterpipe loaded with tea. These were his coming-home pleasures: together with a deck of dirty cars. 'Lately I've been concentrating on this deuce of diamonds. Have you noticed where her other hand is? I'll bet you can't tell. Look long and try to see.' He wanted to lend me this deuce of diamonds, which depicted a tall mournful fellow and a lascivious sad whore on a bed trying a position. 'Go ahead man, I've used it many times!'"
Drunken romantics bound early to your graves. Who should purchase your peddlings? A dank Detroit theater is no palace at 4 a.m. and an alley is an alley is an alley in the crappy part of a marginal Texas town. Or is it? Throwing down your challenge, your example was enjoyment. "Man can you dig the beauty and kicks!"
"We wandered out and negotiated several dark mysterious blocks. Innumerable houses hid behind verdant almost jungle-like yards' we saw glimpses of girls in front rooms, girls on porches, girls in the bushes with boys. "I never knew this mad San Antonio! Think what Mexico'll be like. Lessgo! Lessgo!"
Yet for all its ebullience, "On the Road" is but a marginally successful search for joy that, at bottom, asserts something is not right in these sojourners nor in the America which spawned them.
"Looking at snapshots of Cassady's children," Kerouac writes, "I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth and well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness of the riot, or our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. Juices inform the world, children never know."
Nightmare and dream sit on different sides of the same coin and to know one, you must be familiar with the other.
The extension of the Mexico trip, trimmed to a classical d¨¦nouement in the edited version, renders the American break with an organic world wrought by the big bomb drops on Japan.
It is mentioned vaguely, as if to do so more emphatically might be to conjure another nuclear massacre, but in this passage we hear it and understand that, for all their rebellion and dissociation, the roadgoers are tainted by food from the same poisoned factory farm.
The indigenous peoples they saw, "knew who was the father and who was the son of antique life on earth, and made no comment. For when destruction comes to the world people will stare with the same eyes from the caves of Mexico as well as from the caves of Bali, where it all began and where Adam was suckled and taught to know."
Jack and Neal and the third wheel rolling with them are no heroes. They are car escapees from the psychic slaughter unleashed in their homeland, a sudden clanking folly from America with its three broken bozos inside. And the choice has been the same for half a century now: to be with them or against them.
Lead the way you lost and lonely bozos....more info
- The Real Thing
Like another reviewer, I'd expected the scroll to be a mess. Not so - I believe I like it even better than the original novel - it is untouched by editors and censors.
The book begins with several yawn-inducing 'analyses' by academics. Then Kerouac's prose explodes on the page and everything is all right.
This is a unique masterpiece that anyone interested in the Beats, Kerouac, etc., cannot pass up. Highest recommendation....more info
- Sal and Dean or Jack and Neal?
I've read the published (Sal Paradise/Dean Moriarty) version of "On the Road" at least three times since the early 1970s, but I find that this original 1951 scroll transcription with no paragraph breaks, unexpurgated expletives, and the real names of Kerouac and Cassady and Ginsberg and Burroughs hits harder, moves faster, and is much more immediate in its impact than the traditionally-edited novel. But even though it predates the publication of the finished book by six years, most of my favorite, most memorable, lines and events were there in this first draft. It's a revelation.
The scroll version also brings up questions about the relative merits of memoirs vs. novels and fiction vs. non-fiction that seem very contemporary -- in the nineteen fifties it was more important to be a Novelist if one were to be taken seriously as a writer; you created a fictional universe, you disguised autobiographical names and events (at least nominally), and you would never be forced to appear on Oprah defending the veracity of every subjective recollection in your book.
If you've read the book in its traditional form, read it again in this "new" version (but if you're coming to this indispensible American classic for the first time, then I'd suggest starting with the published version with the well-known noms de route -- everyone should know Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty!)...more info
- A rare treat of a book
Somehow I imagined the scroll to be an incomprehensible mess that editors had to sift through in order to create something that could be published as a novel. I was very far from the truth.
The Original Scroll is an example of excellent writing. Yes, it's missing paragraphs, but the style is sharp like a knife's edge. Kerouac's text has power to concentrate reader's imagination and then send it flying into a thousand of directions at once.
I think I actually prefer the scroll to the classic editions of On the Road. The scroll feels very real and easy to understand.
Amazing!! Kupetz, et al capture, contextualize and disseminate the power of the scroll and its impact on the movement and lit....more info
- A long journey still in the making
I suppose it was only a matter of time before the original scroll found its way into print. Jim Irsay paid a cool $2.4 million for the scroll back in 2001. Fortunately, he was generous enough to send the scroll on the road for a 13-stop tour which will be completed next year at Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in Austin, Texas.
It is important to have the scroll now in print as it differs significantly from the 1957 edited version we have all come to know over the past 50 years. Regarded as the seminal work of the Beat Generation, On the Road recounts Jack Kerouac's journeys across America in the late 40's and early 50's, where he met up with Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and many others who formed an underground literary movement, that took its beat to some extent from the Be-bop jazz of the era.
In Neal Cassady, known as Dean Moriarty in the 1957 version, Kerouac found his alter ego, a person who lived in the here and now, seemingly oblvious to the world around him. The two covered a lot of ground together, assuming the lives of hobos at times, hopping trains as they criss-crossed the country in search of soulmates. To many influential figures of the era, Cassady appeared to embody the perpetual state of being found in Buddhism. He would have as strong an influence on Ginsberg as he had on Kerouac.
Kerouac went onto write Dharma Bums, Desolation Angels, and many other accounts of his travels and relations with the Beat generation. Some of these stories are captured in a new Library of America edition of Jack Kerouac. But, it is On the Road that captured the imagination of a new generation, which treated this book like a Bible for the open road in the 60s, including Francis Ford Coppola, who bought the screen rights to the book in 1968, and is finally making it into a movie with Walter Salles directing....more info
- interesting but.
What a pain to read! I really think its cool that they released the original scroll of "On the Road" one of my favorite books, but given the option to read this or an other version I'd choose the version that isn't a jumbled mess. I think the concept is great. I always wondered what Kerouac's scroll looked like and this version gives me the opportunity, but if I was reading the book for the first time I wouldn't pick this up. This a very cool copy for Kerouac fans that want a collectors item but if you're reading it for the first time pick another copy. ...more info
"On the Road" - Jack Kerouac's autobiographical novel of the exhilarating and exhausting cross-country road trips of 20-somethings Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty - was such an enormous watershed in American culture that it seems quite fitting that its 50th anniversary should be noted by Viking with no less than three newly published books: "On the Road: The 50th Anniversary Edition," "On the Road: The Original Scroll" and "Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of `On the Road."
While the 50th anniversary edition may be a bit of a disappointment to those already familiar with the quintessential chronicle of the "Beat" generation (it is identical to book's 40th anniversary edition and contains no extras whatsoever), The Original Scroll is an absolute revelation, both for previous fans of Kerouac and also for those experiencing "On the Road" for the first time.
Typed in three furious weeks in 1951 on one continuous sheet of paper, The Scroll -- that is, the initial draft of "On the Road" - was revised three times before the final edition was published in 1957. While The Scroll and the final version are very similar, the differences that remain are quite striking.
Besides containing scenes and narratives which were eventually cut, The Scroll also includes the real names of the people on whom the book's characters were based. Realizing that Carlo Marx (what a pseudonym!) is a fictionalized Allen Ginsberg gives one the startling sense of viewing a home movie of the ultimate Beat poet. Watching Dean Moriarty's wildly self-destructive behavior within the pages of On the Road is to have a close encounter with Neal Cassady, the quintessential Beatnik who, although he didn't do much writing himself, inspired a myriad of other writers to do so.
The Scroll contains no chapter or paragraph breaks whatsoever, and it is this element - combined with the understanding that it was Kerouac's first and freshest attempt at chronicling his cross-country peregrinations - that gives the reader a more startling sense of urgency than can be provided even in the ultimately galvanizing final edition of "On the Road."
Although those with only a passing knowledge of Kerouac may believe "On the Road" to be a tale of unbridled lust (wander- and otherwise), it is actually quite tame by 21st century standards. There is a plethora of casual sex and substance abuse found within its pages, but nothing patently explicit. And squeezed into the frantic narrative are descriptions of such poignancy as to make one aware of Kerouac's keen sensitivity to poetic images. For instance, while attempting to depict the laugh of a gregarious Nebraska farmer, Kerouac writes:
". . . you could hear his raspy cries clear across the plains, across the whole gray world of them that day. . . I said to myself, Wham, listen to that man laugh. That's the West . . . It was the spirit of the West sitting right next to me . . ."
If Kerouac could see poetry in the commonplace, he also read humor into the sublime. Yes, he was one of the "Beats" but that didn't mean he couldn't see through the occasional absurdity of their hyper-seriousness. For instance, after listening to an all-night conversation between Carlo Marx (Allen Ginsberg) and Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) in which they were "trying to communicate with absolute honesty and absolute completeness everything on [their] minds," Sal Paradise (Kerouac) tells them: "If you keep this up, you'll both go crazy, but let me know what happens as you go along."
Sal Paradise's pronounced yearnings to get somewhere, to find something, is what gives the book its intense urgency and Kerouac often couches these longings in beautiful and raw poetic descriptions of the American countryside:
"In the whole eastern dark wall of the Divide this night there was silence and the whisper of the wind, except in the ravine where we roared; and on the other side of the Divide was the great Western Slope, and the big plateau that went to Steamboat Springs, and dropped, and led you to the western Colorado desert and the Utah desert; all in darkness now as we fumed and screamed in our mountain nook, mad drunken Americans in the mighty land. We were on the roof of America and all we could do was yell, I guess- across the night, eastward over the Plains . . ."
Several illustrative essays are included as a preface to The Scroll as a means to elucidate the layered meanings found in "On the Road." The newly published, "Why Kerouac Matters: Lessons from On the Road" is exceptionally enlightening in this regard. Author John Leland relates, in a very accessible manner, Kerouac's deliberate themes in the book and also how Kerouac's own personality - surprisingly - did not fit into the quintessential "Beat" mold. Leland bases his sometimes unexpected but entirely believable suppositions in Kerouac's own letters and he interweaves significant portions of the text to support his arguments.
Although "Why Kerouac Matters" is extremely elucidative, it should only be read after first encountering "On the Road." Although Kerouac was trying to communicate a very specific message, what matters in the end is what you take from the book for yourself. For many readers, the freedom and infinite possibilities whispered throughout the exciting and pathos-filled pages of "On the Road" have inspired them to initiate their own odyssey. Which is precisely the point.
- THE SCROLL
Just wanted to let people know something. When I first ordered the book, I was slightly concerned that it would be an interersting artifact, but difficult to physically read because of the aging, torn, coffee-stained, scotch taped, etc. manuscript. But I am happy to report: The text is presented in "regular" print, not photos of the original scroll. Plus, what a pleasure to read this classic work of greatness without the "false names" like Cody, Carlo Marx, etc...but the REAL NAMES like Neal and Allen. I've said it before and I'll say it again: in my opinion, Jack Kerouac is the greatest writer of all time....more info
- A pilgrimage to the source of the great original road trip.
On the Road - the original road trip. The book that took the Beat movement mainstream and fused literature and the youth culture inextricably in the 50s and 60s - presented here as the legendary scroll manuscript Kerouac initially produced. It's readable and electric. The act of reading this familiar and envigorating story anew makes it fresh again. The differences are small (in the scroll Kerouac uses real names instead of of the pseudonyms used in the published novel; the scroll is sexier and feels a bit edgier and more breathless) - but enough to make me experience it in a raw new way. Kerouac's quest for Cassady is a story that puts me in touch with what life's all about: freedom, friendship, creativity, partying, love - and the wanderlust questing nature of the human soul. It's never been more needed - or more pertinent.
This is a great way to reconnect with this great classic. If you've never read it, I wouldn't hesitate to read this over the published one. This version makes it easier to reconnect the novel's/memoir's action with history. Highly recommended...more info