Monday, July 2, 2012

Jack Kerouac, American Writer


A Time of Questioning in American literature. . .

Jack Kerouac Alley, San Francisco, CA - courtesy of AC photos



Were the Beat writers and poets, circa 1946 - 1962, the last great American movement in writing?  Many of these writers questioned traditional values and morals in a world recovering from war.  What kind of future could they expect?  In his novels, Kerouac captures the restlessness of the young men and women of those days.  Media blurbs called him the father of a 'beat generation'.


Jack Kerouac, born March 12, 1922 – deceased October 21, 1969, was a writer who used his own life as background material for his novels.  In his books, you'll find a taste of American life in the late forties and fifties, a time of 'quiet unrest'.  Hoping the dark times were past, this generation wanted freedom to roam, to conquer the road with their newly minted cars, to see what everyone else was doing in America.



Jack joined the US Merchant Marines and the US Navy (twice) before deciding to concentrate on writing.  His companions were fellow writers Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Neal Cassady, and several others.


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Collection of Jack Kerouac Books - by DG Hudson


The books listed below are the ones I've read; some we purchased in San Francisco when we visited the City Lights Bookstore.  Another reference book about the writer is Kerouac, a biography by Ann Charters (Warner Paperback, 1974) if you'd like to read about the different periods in his life.  BEAT Literature, A Monarch Notes booklet, Monarch Press, Inc., 1966, which we found in an antiques shop in Canada, portrays the editorial opinion of the day.


Suggested Books by Kerouac:

Vanity of Duluoz - G.P. Putnam's Sons, Capricorn Books, 1967

On the Road - Penguin Books, 1991, orig 1955

Dharma Bums - 1958, copy MIA

Dr. Sax - Grove Press, Inc., 1959

The Subterraneans - Grove Press, Inc., 1971, orig 1958

Tristessa - McGraw-Hill Book Company 1978, orig 1960

Satori in Paris - Grove Press, Inc., 1966

Mexico City Blues (242 choruses) - Grove Press, Inc., 1959

Book of Dreams - City Lights Books, 1976, orig 1961

Lonesome Traveler - Grove Press, Inc.,1970; orig 1960

Visions of Cody - McGraw-Hill Paperbacks, 1972, orig 1960

Scattered Poems - City Lights Books, Pocket Poets Series, 1971


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More book titles can be found online, the list above is representational and not complete. Behind the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, is Jack Kerouac Alley, formerly Adler Place, a one-way alley transformed thanks to one of the bookstore owners, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  Jack and many of the beat writers hung out at the bookstore and the nearby bar.

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Have you read any of Jack Kerouac's novels?  If yes, which one(s)?  Do you consider these novels dated?  Does the term Beat Generation mean anything to you?  Have you heard of On the Road, or Dharma Bums


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References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kerouac General Info, Wikipedia


http://www.citylights.com/  City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, USA


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kerouac_Alley  General Info about the alley.

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24 comments:

  1. I read On the Road. I love The Grateful Dead, and Neal Cassidy is a cult figure that made his way into a few of their songs (notably "Cassidy" and "The Other One," the former blends his free-spiritedness with the hopes for a young girl who shared the name, the latter references his position as bus driver for Ken Kesey and the Merry Prankster's bus, Further). But beyond that, he was able to provide a snapshot in words, a time capsule of an era between WWII and the tumult of the 60s.

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    1. Like the Grateful Dead, and have read the Ken Kesey books. Neal Cassidy had his own story. We've got one book by him.

      Thanks for the extra info about the songs. The Merry Pranksters and Ken Kesey could be another post!(Kesey's books also provide a snapshot of the time) Thanks for the extra info.

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  2. I've only read On the Road-- and I liked the voice in that book.

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    1. On the Road or Dharma Bums was the first one I read, Damyanti. I was lured by Jack's way with words.

      I wasn't as crazy about his 'stream of consciousness' ramblings, but I've tried that technique before.

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  3. I read some of his books back then, late 50s early 60s. Some of us who hung out a the coffeehouses in Stockholm called ourselves beatniks. Oh, well, we weren't of course, but I wonder now if I wasn't influenced by his desire to roam. When I came to California from Princeton, NJ in 1972, in VW bug, via route 66, and I was in heaven.

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    1. I roamed, too, so perhaps you're right. Reading about that kind of freedom may instill a desire to experience it. Very cool that you came via Route 66.

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  4. Sad to say I haven't read anything by him yet, but plan to remedy that. I have heard of him and new he was considered the pioneer of that movement.

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  5. Check out that list, Mary. He liked cats, too. He had an exciting but sad life, always searching.

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  6. My senior students are studying the Beat Poets at the mo', Ginsberg and co. I didn't know Jack Kerouac had written so many books. I knew of On the Road and intend to find a copy and read it. I've read extracts from it.

    Great post. New follower.

    Denise

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    1. Welcome Denise,and thanks for the follow!

      On the Road is the book I read first, and seems to be the best known. It's great that you're studying the Beat Poets with your students. I applaud you! (for reference the Ann Charters book, 'Kerouac, A Biography' fills in some of the gaps)

      Thanks for visiting.

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  7. Very interesting post. I think I read On The Road years ago -- I'm at the age where I can't remember half of what I've done or what I've read. :) That's sort of a good thing. :)

    Your post and the comments make me want to invetigate him again and check out his other books. BTW, if Inger traveled Route 66, she passed by where I'm living now in Yukon, Oklahoma. We trudge up and down Route 66 just for the fun of doing it. :) I've wondered how far it goes; must look it up on the map. You have a great site here. I always enjoy your posts.

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    1. That's really interesting, Jess, another Route 66'er. You should post about the legendary road sometime.

      I was also thinking about re-reading some of Kerouac's books again.

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  8. I got "On the Road" at a garage sale. It's unread at this point, but something I'll read eventually. Interesting question you raised.

    Shannon @ The Warrior Muse

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    1. My first copy of 'On the Road' disintegrated due to being borrowed so much. Had to replace it.

      The question (first line in the post) is an involved one, and I don't see any group of writers that define the moment. What we have are many individual writers, defined more by genre than by style of writing.

      I think I need to re-read Jack.

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  9. I'm terrible - I've never even heard of him.

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    1. Now you have, Diane!

      Precisely why I featured him. Too many of these 'influencers' of our free writing styles of today have faded into the background.

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  10. Haven't read Kerouac but...There's a booker award on my blog for you if you'd like to pop over :-)

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    1. You should give Kerouac's work a try. On the Road is a good one to start with.

      Thanks, Susan, for the booker award, but I have a 'no tags no awards' policy.(see tab at top of blog page)

      I appreciate the thought.

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  11. Neat! I'd never heard of him before!
    BTW, thanks for your comment - it inspired today's post of French music clips!

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    1. Thanks, Jenna, you've made my day! Music has that knack of bringing back memories or reaching our hearts.

      We are also fans of Stephane Grappelli and Django R. Saw Grappelli in Vancouver when he was 60 and still going strong.

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  12. I finally read On The Road a couple of years ago. Yes, I found it dated, but I expected that since it's a depiction of an era. Great book and worth the read. It will be interesting to see what they do with the film version.

    The characters were supposed to be pretty radical in their time, but by today's standards their radicalism is pretty conservative and subdued.


    Lee
    Wrote By Rote

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    1. Interesting, Lee, they've tried to do Kerouac in film before, with lukewarm results. I hope the casting is more accurate this time.

      You're right about the perception of what 'radical' means in today's world. The internet made a big difference.

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  13. I do not know Kerouac or beat generation. Does that date me? Thank you for featuring something new-to-me. Where would you recommend I start?

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    1. 'On the Road' sets the stage at the turn of a social movement, a '1984' style awakening of the Youth of that era. Start there, it will introduce you to some of the characters, J.

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