Beat Generation WriterBorn in 1922 in the textile mill city of Lowell, Massachusetts, Kerouac is identified as the "father" of the Beat Generation. And while he clearly stood in the middle of the Beat vortex, his literary output, viewed collectively, also makes him one of the more important writers of American spiritual autobiography.
A son of the American working-class, Kerouac was as pure a writer as our literary history can produce. As even a quick study of his life reveals, his writing was his life and his life was his writing.
He left Lowell as a teenager to attend school in New York City. It was in New York that Kerouac would meet Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Lucien Carr. After a year of college preparation at the Horace Mann School he went to Columbia University on a football scholarship. A year later he dropped out of Columbia and spent the rest of his life writing. His first published book, The Town and the City, published in 1950, received moderate praise and sold poorly. A Thomas Wolfe-like narrative, it depicts the life and changes of an American family. It brought Kerouac a $1000 advance and no fame.
Seven years would pass before his next book, On The Road, was published. And while he had virtually no income as a writer between these two books, all he did was write. From the time he completed the fourth major revision of On The Road in 1951 until its publication on September 5, 1957 Kerouac wrote seven books of prose and poetry. By the time of his death, Kerouac had published at least 18 books. Nine additional works have already been published posthumously.
With the publication of On The Road, Kerouac was quickly catapulted to the status of cultural icon representing the youth of the country. Kerouac's brush with the flame of fame, however, began a crushing process of disintegration that ended only when he died from alcohol abuse in 1969 at the age of 47.
Much has already been written about Kerouac's physical and mental collapse. The prevailing image is of a bloated and bitter man who either tried to ignore the generation he was credited with creating or, in more aggressive modes, ridiculed it. The actual record leaves some doubt about this image of Kerouac as a reactionary politcal conservative. But the image is still there, nonetheless.
Kerouac was married three times. his first wife, Edie Parker, married him in part to help him get out of jail when he was arrested as a material witness to the killing of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr. His second wife, Joan Haverty, had his daughter, Jan Kerouac, although Kerouac only met his daughter twice and had to be sued by Haverty so he would provide for Jan's support. His third wife, Stella Sampas, was an old family friend from Lowell. He married Stella primarily to take care of his mother. There is some speculation that he planned to divorce Stella just before he died.
The lasting legacy, gleaned from his life and his work (and it is our contention that there really is no clear distinction between his life and work) is of a creative artist struggling with a world so thoroughly different and disturbing that it was impossible to be mute about it.
Ultimately, what Jack Kerouac has finally left us to consider are the true and wild stories of a man's love, a man's work and of a man's suffering.
Jack KerouacBatting Record YEAR TEAM POS BA AB H HR RBI 1995 Beats lf .260 665 173 0 50 1996 Beats lf .231 610 141 25 85 2 Seasons .246 1275 314 25 135
The Real Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac at Literary Kicks
Kerourac Collection: Taped Interviews
Jack Kerouac at Mystic Fire
Kerouac Archives Controversey at Bookzen
Jack Kerouac at the Iliad
Jack Kerouac: Dharma Bum
Books by Kerouac
Inside the Kerouac Legacy
Beat doesn't mean tired, or bushed, so much as it means beato, the Italian for beatific: to be in a state of beatitude, like St. Francis, trying to love all life, trying to be utterly sincere with everyone, practicing endurance, kindness, cultivating joy of heart. How can this be done in our mad modern world of multiplicities and millions? By practicing a little solitude, going off by yourself once in a while to store up that most precious of golds: the vibrations of sincerity.
Jack Kerouac. "Lamb, No Lion", 1958.
1997 Dharma Beats Roster
1997 Jack Kerouac Cosmic Player Plate
Published: December 24, 1996
Revised: September 21, 1998
© 1996, 1997 by the Cosmic Baseball Association