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.


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


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.


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


References: General Info, Wikipedia  City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco, USA  General Info about the alley.