"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, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle
you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes "Awww!"."
1922-69 American Poet, author and philosopher of the Beat Generation
Perhaps the most significant thing about Jack is not the books, not the man himself, but the ideas, the memes that he set loose. It was a meme that launched a million trips. At times it seemed his life was one extended Road Trip. This was a time when cars first became affordable to the average person. "We bought a used car for $200, and set out for the west coast..."
He was born in the blue collar town of Lowell, Massachusetts.
He enrolled in Columbia University in Greenwich Village during World War II. He dropped out, but stayed in the neighborhood nearby where he met (through friend Lucian Carr); William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady. This constituted what became known as the Beat Generation which began in that nucleus of friends in New York City. They spent a lot of time listening to Jazz music. Jack was particularly fond of the music of Lester Young and Charlie Parker. They all spent a lot of time in the Jazz clubs in the Village, in those days you could see people like Parker for a small cover charge.
He spent some time as a merchant marine working on commercial vessels.
In 1947, he took his first trip he hitch-hiked to Denver to meet Neal Cassady, who would become the protagonist in two of Jack's books, Visions of Cody and On The Road.
He spent the early 50's writing one unpublished novel after another, carrying them around in a pack as he roamed back and forth across America.
He followed Ginsberg to San Francisco. There he met Lawrence Ferlinghetti and later, Gary Snyder. It was Snyder who introduced Jack to Buddhism. This became the basis for The Dharma Bums which had Snyder as the central character.
He went to Europe and also to visit Burroughs in Tangiers. There he found his old friend abusing heroin with abandon, and a huge pile of handwritten pages swirling on the floor. Jack gathered up all the pages, put them in order, gave the book the name Naked Lunch and strongly urged him to finish it. It later became a best seller.
He wrote (dates of publication):
He also wrote several books of poetry, the most famous of which is probably Mexico City Blues. He certainly did nothing to dispel the American alcoholic writer stereotype.
Falls under the categories of Books that will induce a mindfuck and Books you loan out to expand friends' minds.
Remember, "Travel Changes your Brain"...
Gruen, John, "The New Bohemia", a capella books, Chicago, 1990.
Miles, Barry, "Jack Kerouac, King of the Beats", Henry Holt and Co., New York, 1998
Waldman, Anne (ed.), "The BEAT BOOK: Poems and Fiction from the beat generation", Shambhala, Boston, 1996
Kerouac, Jack, "[The Dharma Bums|Dharma Bums, The, New American Library, New York, 1959
Last updated 05.14.04