- 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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Kerouac termed this style of writing "spontaneous prose" and compared it to the improvisation of his beloved jazz musicians. Revision, he believed, was akin to lying and detracted from the ability of prose to capture the truth of a moment.
However, publishers dismissed Kerouac's single-scroll manuscript, and the novel remained unpublished for six years. When it was finally published in 1957, On the Road became an instant classic,
bolstered by a review in The New York Times that proclaimed, "Just as, more than any other novel of the '20s, The Sun Also Rises came to be regarded as the testament of the 'Lost Generation,' so it seems certain that On the Road will come to be known as that of the 'Beat Generation'." As Kerouac's girlfriend at the time, Joyce Johnson, put it, "Jack went to bed obscure and woke up famous."
In the six years that passed between the composition and publication of On the Road, Kerouac traveled extensively; experimented with Buddhism; and wrote many novels that went unpublished at the time. His next published novel, The Dharma Bums (1958), described Kerouac's clumsy steps toward spiritual enlightenment on a mountain climb with friend Gary Snyder, a Zen poet. Dharma was followed that same year by the novel The Subterraneans, and in 1959, Kerouac published three novels: Dr. Sax, Mexico City Blues and Maggie Cassidy.
Kerouac's most famous later novels include Book of Dreams (1961), Big Sur (1962), Visions of Gerard (1963) and Vanity of Duluoz (1968). Kerouac also wrote poetry in his later years, composing mostly long-form free verse as well as his own version of the Japanese haiku form. Additionally, Kerouac released several albums of spoken word poetry during his lifetime.
Despite maintaining a prolific pace of publishing and writing, Kerouac was never able to cope with the fame he achieved after On the Road, and his life soon devolved into a blur of drunkenness and drug addiction. He married Edie Parker in 1944, but their marriage ended in divorce after only a few months. In 1950, Kerouac married Joan Haverty, who gave birth to his only daughter, Jan Kerouac, but this second marriage also ended in divorce after less than a year. Kerouac married Stella Sampas, who was also from Lowell, in 1966. He died from an abdominal hemorrhage three years later, on October 21, 1969, at the age of 47, in St. Petersburg, Florida.
More than four decades after his death, Jack Kerouac continues to capture the imagination of wayward and rebellious youth. One of the most enduring American novels of all time, On the Road appears on virtually every list of the 100 greatest American novels. Kerouac's words, spoken through the narrator Sal Paradise, continue to inspire today's youth with the power and clarity with which they inspired the youth of his own time: "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."
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