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Biographies


Amburn, Ellis. Subterranean Kerouac: The Hidden Life of Jack Kerouac . New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

 

Having grown close to Kerouac while editing the writer's last two novels, Desolation Angels and Vanity of Duluoz, the author was a witness to Kerouac's struggles with both the question of his sexuality and the depths of his addictions. This controversial work gives unusual insight into the writer's last years.

 

Cassady, Carolyn. Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg. New York: William Morrow, 1990.

 

In this autobiographical account, Cassady vividly rounds out her intimate portrayal of a woman at the core of the Beat movement. The book chronicles her experiences with the Beat writers, from her first meeting with Neal Cassady in 1947 through Kerouac's death in 1969.

 

Charters, Ann. Kerouac: A Biography. New York. St. Martin's Press, 1994.

 

Written by Kerouac enthusiast and authority Ann Charters, the earliest of major Kerouac biographies is founded on several years of interviews with the writer, interviews with other Beat writers, and solid research. Sympathetic but substantial, the chronicle of Kerouac's restless life, particularly the productive years between 1951 and 1957, is detailed here and carefully related to his largely autobiographical writings.

 

Christy, Jim. The Long Slow Death of Jack Kerouac. Toronto: ECW Press, 1998.

 

One of the most widely read and influential American writers of the 20th century, Jack Kerouac is often misunderstood. Christy focuses on the last ten years of Kerouac's life, from the influential New York Times rave review of On the Road until his death in 1969.

 

Clark, Tom. Jack Kerouac: A Biography. New York: Paragon House, 1990.

 

A concise, straightforward, chronological account of Kerouac's successes and struggles. Well-documented and containing many photographs, it serves as an excellent introduction to the writer and his work.

 

Dittman, Michael J. Jack Kerouac: A Biography. Westport, CT. Greenwood Press, 2004.

 

This critical biography provides a roadmap to the personal journeys that marked the life and works of American icon Jack Kerouac.

 

Dorfner, John. Kerouac: Visions of Lowell. Raleigh, NC: Cooper Street Publications, 1993.

 

It was in Lowell, Massachusetts where Kerouac's life and memories began. Through the areas of Centralville and Pawtucketville, the author leads us on a written and pictorial pilgrimage to the buildings, roads, and scenes that Kerouac described in his writings, and the landmarks that have arisen after his death.

 

 

Gifford, Barry and Lawrence Lee. Jack's Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1978.

 

For this oral history the authors interviewed Kerouac's friends and acquaintances from his childhood in Lowell to his final days in St. Petersburg. The result is an immediate, intimate portrait full of fresh insights and varied perspectives from the people who knew him best. Brief but elucidating comments from one of Kerouac's Northport friends, artist Stanley Twardowicz, are included.

 

 

Jarvis, Charles E. Visions of Kerouac. Lowell, MA: Ithaca Press, 1974.

 

This early biography is penned with a topical approach by a lifelong friend and teacher of the humanities at the University of Lowell. Jarvis' academic background and his personal knowledge come together in his conversational yet astute treatment of subjects such as the transformation of Kerouac's boyhood experiences into fiction and Kerouac's dissipated life in Lowell during the late 1960s.

 

Johnson, Joyce and Jack Kerouac. Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, 1957-1958. New York: Viking, 2000.

 

Previously unavailable letters, an integral part of author and editor Joyce Johnson's youthful relationship with nomadic Kerouac, cover the period during which On the Road was published and Kerouac was pitched abruptly from obscurity to celebrity.

 

Johnson, Joyce. Minor Characters. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.

 

This earlier memoir traces the evolution of Johnson's romance with Kerouac, touching upon the peripheral, supportive role of women involved with the men of the Beat Generation. Johnson played a role in Kerouac's move to Northport and this book includes pleasant descriptions of the community.

 

Jones, Jim. Use My Name: Jack Kerouac's Forgotten Families. Toronto: ECW Press, 1999.

 

Use My Name presents the saga of five people whose lives were joined, often in emotional or legal conflict, by their relationship with the same man, the King of the Beatniks, Jack Kerouac.

 

McNally, Dennis. Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, The Beat Generation, and America. Cambridge, MA. Da Capo Press. 2003..

 

By placing Kerouac and the Beat movement within the larger context of the political, social, and literary history of post-World War II America, McNally's narrative biography makes a significant contribution to the growing literature on Kerouac.

 

Miles, Barry. Jack Kerouac, King of the Beats: A Portrait. New York: Henry Holt, 1998.

 

With the Kerouac estate limiting access to sources, the author spends his energies on trying to de-mythologize Kerouac, the literary and countercultural hero. Many of the revelations in this work regarding the writer's character and actions have been made in previous biographies and confirm that Kerouac was both human and fallible, sometimes in contradiction to what he wrote. The author successfully conjures up the fervor of the Beats' time period which led to Kerouac's cultural canonization.

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Montgomery, John. Kerouac West Coast. A Bohemian Pilot Detailed Navigational Instructions. Palo Alto, CA: Fels & Firn Press, 1976.

 

This is a droll, essay-length memoir by a Berkeley pal and librarian who climbed Yosemite's Matterhorn with Kerouac and Gary Snyder (an event which found its way into Dharma Bums ). The author explores an assortment of topics — Kerouac as a “serious, innovating, experimentalist,” his failed marriages, Kerouac's wariness toward New York City, and the real story of the mountain climb.

 

Nicosia, Gerald. Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994.

 

In its accumulation of detail, analysis, and length, Nicosia's diligently researched work stands as the definitive literary biography of Kerouac. It exhibits an appreciation of Kerouac's writing, which is carefully explored and linked to his daily life. From its description of the detours in the construction of an attic workroom to its depiction of Kerouac's friendship with artist Stanley Twardowicz, the book offers the most complete coverage of the Northport period.

 

Parker, Brad. Jack Kerouac: An Introduction. Lowell, MA: Lowell Corporation for the Humanities, Inc., 1989.

 

In honor of the twentieth anniversary of Kerouac's death, the Lowell Corporation for the Humanities published this short, psychological biography written by a Lowell resident. It provides a fine, concise introduction to the writer, his works, and life. One informative feature of the book is a guide to Lowell's Kerouac sites.

 

Sandison, David. Jack Kerouac: An Illustrated Biography.  Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1999.

 

Presents a profile of the father of the Beat generation and author of "On the Road"

 

 

Turner, Steve. Angelheaded Hipster: A Life of Jack Kerouac. New York: Viking, 1996.

 

Presented in an informal scrapbook format with typescript, photos, and souvenirs, this work synopsizes the life and times of Kerouac. The result is a brief, insightful piecing together of a man who hungered for experience and, in pursuit of it, suffered creative and then physical death.

 

 

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