Jack's Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac

Jack's Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac

Barry Gifford

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 014312188X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


"A fascinating literary and historical document, the most insightful look at the Beat Generation." —Dan Wakefield, author of New York in the Fifties and Going All the Way

First published in 1978, Jack's Book gives us an intimate look into the life and times of the "King of the Beats." Through the words of the close friends, lovers, artists, and drinking buddies who survived him, writers Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee recount Jack Kerouac's story, from his childhood in Lowell, Massachusetts, to his tragic end in Florida at the age of forty-seven. Including anecdotes from an eclectic list of well-known figures such as Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Gore Vidal, as well as Kerouac's ordinary acquaintances, this groundbreaking oral biography—the first of its kind—presents us with a remarkably insightful portrait of an American legend and the spirit of a generation.

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happy youth in New Hampshire. At the end of a long, rhapsodic passage describing George’s progress through the city, Kerouac shifts his attention to Peter, who is observing the complicated sociology of Times Square. Suddenly the young Jewish poet Leon Levinsky [Allen Ginsberg] appears, and begins to deliver news of Kenny Wood [Lucien Carr], the crippled homosexual Waldo Meister [David Kammerer], and Will Dennison [Bill Burroughs]. Judie Smith [Edie Parker] has appeared in the college scenes, but

there, from the Pacific with their battle dressings still on. This isn’t really being in the war, but it’s seeing the result of it. In a sense it would have been better to have been in it, where you have flesh-fear. All I saw was the scraps. The veterans, the guys—the Mailers and so forth, who were actually in combat—came back with a much more hardened attitude toward things. There was a way to feel about combat. There was a way to understand that kind of experience. It’s difficult for me to say

The Town and the City by John Kerouac appeared in February 1950, to reviews that were only cordial. The publicity, and many of the notices, mentioned Jack’s debt to Thomas Wolfe, but Wolfe’s vision of the picaresque novel was no longer fresh enough to fire enthusiasm. The effect on Jack’s mind probably was to ratify the search for a new way to tell the next story, On the Road. He felt certain that Giroux would buy the book for Harcourt, Brace, and that his career would continue, but in a new

being kind and being good. Chris MacLaine, Peter Orlovsky, and Gregory Corso, San Francisco, 1957. Photo by Gui de Angulo. Jack would stand on the street and write things down. The amount of literary talk, talking about what they were reading, it was endless and it was always amazing, ’cause they always were able to keep at it for hours and hours, and then they would look over poems that Gregory wrote or Allen wrote or Jack wrote or Neal wrote or Bill wrote. It was an endless interest in words,

couldn’t do it, but that was the best of them. Visions of Cody, in the shape I saw it then, I didn’t much like. But then somebody at Viking said, “Why don’t you just carry on what you were doing in On the Road? And Jack sat down and did his Dharma Bums. And I had nothing at all to do with that. It’s very acceptable prose, but this time he had a terrible fight with Viking about the changes that his editor and the copy-editing department had made in the style. Later on he got mixed up and thought

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