Luc Sante does a decent job of reviewing the new "scroll version" of On the Road. Bad news is you have to be a Times Select sucker to read it in the NY Times. Good news is you can read it for free here:
Contrary to legend, the scroll was not a roll of teletype paper but a series of large sheets of tracing paper that Kerouac cut to fit and taped together, and it is not unpunctuated - merely unparagraphed, which makes a certain physical demand on the reader, who is deprived of the usual rest stops. Also contrary to received ideas, Kerouac by his own admission fueled his work with nothing stronger than coffee. The scroll is slightly longer than the novel as it was finally published, after three subsequent conventionally formatted drafts, in 1957. The biggest immediate difference between the first draft and the finished product, though, is that while we know "On the Road" as a novel - the great novel of the Beat Generation - the scroll is essentially nonfiction, a memoir that uses real names and is far less self-consciously literary. It is a dazzling piece of writing for all of its rough edges, and, stripped of affectations that in the novel can sometimes verge on bathos, as well as of gratuitous punctuation supplied by editors more devoted to rules than to music, it seems much more immediate and even contemporary.
In some ways, the differences are minor. "On the Road" in all of its versions is the story of a series of cross-country trips made by Kerouac between 1948 and 1950 - "trips" rather than "travels," because they are all about covering ground, whether by hitchhiking, by bus or by drive-away car. The cardinal points are New York City, Denver and San Francisco, with spikes down to New Orleans, the San Joaquin Valley and finally Mexico. The trips are sometimes motored by impatience - if only the Rockies began on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel! - but most often Kerouac revels in speed as an ecstatic medium, a way of concentrating as much experience and as many aesthetic and spiritual highs as possible into a week or less. Essential to the whole enterprise is Kerouac's relationship with Neal Cassady (called Dean Moriarty in the novel), who is one of the greatest characters in American literature without any need for imaginative tinkering on the part of the author.