Had he not died in 1969 at the age of 47, Jack Kerouac, the American writer and founder of the Beat Generation, would be celebrating his 80th birthday today. This Personal Cosmic Baseball Game honors one of America's great writers.
Two teams compete in this Memorial Game: one consists of Kerouac family members and three inspirational friends; the other team consists of biographers, memoirists, and chroniclers who have published work about Kerouac.
The Kerouacs Roster
Kerouacs Roster Notes
In the 1960s Kerouac travelled to France looking for proof that he was related to the nobleman Louis Alexandre Lebris de Kerouac of Breton. It was proof he did not find.
When Kerouac died in 1969 his estate, literary and otherwise was valued at $91. On May 22, 2001 in New York City at Christie's Auction House, sale # 9652, Lot 307 was sold for $2.2 million. The item was the original scroll version of Kerouac's novel, On the Road, published in 1957. The scroll was bought by a man who among other interests, owns the Indianapolis Colts, a team in the National Football League.
Football was important to Kerouac and also instrumental in the spontaneous formation of the so-called Beat Generation. It was a football scholarship that got Kerouac to Columbia University, where he met fellow students Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr. To this troika of young college men was added William Burroughs, an older rebellious and influential soul.
Through his friendships with Burroughs, Carr and Ginsberg, Kerouac met another college student, Edie Parker. Edie became the first Mrs. Jack Kerouac on August 22, 1944. It was a marriage of convenience. Kerouac, in jail as a result of his involvement in the death of David Kammerer, needed bail money. When Kerouac's father, Leo, was unable or unwilling to help get Jack out of jail, Jack married Edie and used wedding gift money for bail.
Leo Kerouac, Jack's father, died of stomach cancer in 1946 when Kerouac was 24. Soon after Leo's death, Kerouac, who had left college, began writing his first novel, The Town and the City. Kerouac had already been writing for some time, keeping a diary since he was 14. And while the memory of his father and of his brother Gerard who died in childhood had very strong effects on Kerouac, it was his mother, Gabrielle, who most influenced Kerouac.
The Town and the City was published on March 2, 1950. On November 17, about two weeks after meeting her, Kerouac makes Joan Haverty the second Mrs. Jack Kerouac. In February of 1952, with the marriage already disintegrated, Joan gives birth to a baby girl. Kerouac initially denies that Jan Kerouac is his daughter.
Kerouac was close, however, with his nephew Paul Blake, his sister Caroline's son. One of the last letters Kerouac ever wrote, and perhaps the closest thing he left to a will, was written to his nephew on October 20, 1969.
When he did die, his so-called estate was left to the third Mrs. Jack Kerouac, also known as Stella Sampas, the sister of a close childhood friend. Jack married Stella on November 18, 1966 in Hyannis, Massachusetts. A couple of months earlier, Jack's mother Gabrielle had had a stroke. It is likely Kerouac's third marriage had more to do with finding someone to take care of his mother, and less to do with romantic love.
Harvey Kerouac is Jack's cousin and Doris is Harvey's wife. Doris and Harvey facillitated one of the meetings Jack had with his daughter Jan when she appeared, unannounced in Lowell in November 1967.
The Kerouac Writers Roster
Kerouac Writers Roster Notes
Four years after Jack Kerouac's death, Ann Charters published Kerouac: A Biography (1973). Since that time Charters has become an acknowledged, if not always respected, Kerouac scholar. She edited both volumes of Kerouac's Letters (1995, 1999) and edited the Portable Jack Kerouac volume (1995).
John Tytell contributed his literary history of the Beat Generation in Naked Angels (1976).
Dennis McNally published his combination Kerouac biography/Beat social history called Desolate Angel (1979).
Tim Hunt offered his literary analysis in Kerouac's Crooked Road- Development of a Fiction (1981).
Gerald Nicosia wrote the mammoth Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac (1983).
Joyce Johnson, a former girlfriend of Kerouac's wrote a well-received Beat Generation memoir, Minor Characters (1983) (Johnson later took an intimate look at her relationship with Kerouac in Door Wide Open, published in 1999.)
Tom Clark published his book, Jack Kerouac: A Biography in 1984.
Regina Weinreich probed the literary aesthetic of Kerouac in The Spontaneous Poetics of Jack Kerouac (1987).
Steve Turner published the picture-laden Angelheaded Hipster- A Life of Jack Kerouac (1996).
Bill Morgan published The Beat Generation in New York (1997) which chronicled Kerouac and his friends in the 1940s and 1950s.
Ellis Amburn wrote a psycho-sexual biography of Kerouac, Subterranean Kerouac: The Hidden Life of Jack Kerouac (1998).
Kerouac at the Cosmic Baseball Association