|In September 1957, Jack Kerouac's most famous book, "On the Road," made him a national sensation.
Fans of his work might imagine him living in cultural bastions such as San Francisco's North Beach or Greenwich Village in New York City.
In truth, Kerouac was living in a stifling hot back porch apartment with his mother in northwest Orlando. Yes, pre-Disney, pre-theme park capital Orlando.
Now that success had found Kerouac and turned him in to something of a media darling, his editors at Viking were hounding him for a follow-up.
Starting at the end of November 1957 and in a mere 11 days and nights, Kerouac hammered out enough single-spaced prose on his manual typewriter to fill a 100-foot-long scroll.
On the outside in bright red ink Kerouac scrawled the title of his new book, "The Dharma Bums."
The best part is, Kerouac kept a day-to-day journal of his thoughts and feelings in one of those tiny spiral notebooks small enough to fit in a shirt pocket.
Tuesday, Nov. 26, 1957
Afternoon: Started Dharma Bums. Doing it on a typewriter thru roll of paper (GB Note: Kerouac hated to change paper because he thought it interrupted his flow of spontaneous prose).
Will have to re-rent typewriter for December. But's only by spending that you earn.
Kerouac was a national literary sensation and he still had to work on a rented typewriter. The next few days Kerouac wrote about his hopes that "Dharma Bums" would get him back on the best-seller list. He also hoped that appearances on talk shows, like one hosted by a young Mike Wallace, would bring him much-needed attention and income.
Monday, Dec. 2, 1957
I had a sartori in the moonlit yard eating, that is sucking, ice cold oranges right off the tree, 3 of 'em. Slept in a sleeping bag. Read Quixote.
-Novel 2/3 done-
As Kerouac blazed on the next few days, he noted a great new blues singer named Jackie Wilson. He looked forward to doing a reading of his work at the Village Vanguard in New York City. In his downtime, Kerouac shot hoops with his young nephew, Paul.
Saturday, Dec. 7, 1957
Finished Dharma Bums at midnight.
Sunday, Dec. 8, 1957
Quiet Sunday. My work done. I'm glad to have it all unified in my possession on a 100 foot scroll-The story of the Dharma Bums.
On that same Sunday, Kerouac worried whether the "Dharma Bums" was a suitable follow-up to "On the Road."
"It packs explosive significance," Kerouac reassured himself. "If Viking doesn't want to publish it, they'll be sorry later on."
But his last entry on that piece of notebook paper for Sunday reflected the shy writer's lack of confidence that his act of literary and athletic prowess would matter.
"Oh well, it probably stinks," he wrote.
Today, the 1920s-era bungalow in Orlando's College Park neighborhood where Kerouac worked during that historic stretch has been given landmark status by the city of Orlando. It's now a writers' retreat where aspiring artists from all over the world compete to live and be inspired in their writing by Kerouac's Orlando legacy.
It is a reminder that success did not come easy for Kerouac. He lived a hand-to-mouth existence there, plying his trade and pursuing his undying passion. It has earned him literary immortality.
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