- NAME: Jack Kerouac
- OCCUPATION: Journalist, Author, Poet
- BIRTH DATE: March 12, 1922
- DEATH DATE: October 21, 1969
- EDUCATION: Columbia University, The New School, Lowell High School, Horace Mann School for Boys
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Lowell, Massachusetts
- PLACE OF DEATH: St. Petersburg, Florida
- Originally: Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac
- AKA: Jean-Louis de Kerouac
- AKA: Jack Kerouac
Best Known For
Jack Kerouac was an American writer best known for the novel On the Road, which became an American classic, pioneering the Beat Generation in the 1950s.
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A short biography of Jack Kerouac, writer and pioneer of the Beat Generation. He epitomized the era of sex, drugs, alcohol, and jazz through his novel "On the Road," which became the bible of the countercultural generation.
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Born on March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts, Jack Kerouac's writing career began in the 1940s, but didn't meet with commercial success until 1957, when On the Road was published. The book became an American classic that defined the Beat Generation. Kerouac died on October 21, 1969, from an abdominal hemorrhage, at age 47.
"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles."
"If moderation is a fault, then indifference is a crime."
"My witness is the empty sky."
Famed writer Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac on March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts. A thriving mill town in the mid-19th century, Lowell had become, by the time of Jack Kerouac's birth, a down-and-out burg where unemployment and heavy drinking prevailed. Kerouac's parents, Leo and Gabrielle, were immigrants from Quebec, Canada; Kerouac learned to speak French at home before he learned English at school. Leo Kerouac owned his own print shop, Spotlight Print, in downtown Lowell, and Gabrielle Kerouac, known to her children as Memere, was a homemaker. Kerouac later described the family's home life: "My father comes home from his printing shop and undoes his tie and removes [his] 1920s vest, and sits himself down at hamburger and boiled potatoes and bread and butter, and with the kiddies and the good wife."
Jack Kerouac endured a childhood tragedy in the summer of 1926, when his beloved older brother Gerard died of rheumatic fever at the age of 9. Drowning in grief, the Kerouac family embraced their Catholic faith more deeply. Kerouac's writing is full of vivid memories of attending church as a child: "From the open door of the church warm and golden light swarmed out on the snow. The sound of the organ and singing could be heard."
Kerouac's two favorite childhood pastimes were reading and sports. He devoured all the 10-cent fiction magazines available at the local stores, and he also excelled at football, basketball and track. Although Kerouac dreamed of becoming a novelist and writing the "great American novel," it was sports, not writing, that Kerouac viewed as his ticket to a secure future. With the onset of the Great Depression, the Kerouac family suffered from financial difficulties, and Kerouac's father turned to alcohol and gambling to cope. His mother took a job at a local shoe factory to boost the family income, but, in 1936, the Merrimack River flooded its banks and destroyed Leo Kerouac's print shop, sending him into a spiral of worsening alcoholism and condemning the family to poverty. Kerouac, who was, by that time, a star running back on the Lowell High School football team, saw football as his ticket to a college scholarship, which in turn might allow him to secure a good job and save his family's finances.
Upon graduating from high school in 1939, Kerouac received a football scholarship to Columbia University, but first he had to attend a year of preparatory school at the Horace Mann School for Boys in Brooklyn. So, at the age of 17, Kerouac packed his bags and moved to New York City, where he was immediately awed by the limitless new experiences of big city life.
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