At the premiere reading of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, I read a section from a chapter that mentioned that Kerouac titled an early draft of his road trip novel Gone on the Road. Isn’t it amazing how one word can completely change the perception of a work?
What I didn’t mention at the reading is that this wasn’t the only incarnation of the title. At another point, Kerouac considered changing the title so that it reflected the rock music that was emerging at the time. Considering how influential jazz music was on his writing style and on the content of the book, it’s better that the title wasn’t changed just to capture a certain market. It’s always better to remain true to your voice and vision.
The title On the Road is perfect. And yet in another way it’s just so … obvious. So literal. I wonder if his work were being published for the first time today, if an editor would change the title to something flashier.