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Introduction

Jack Kerouac, one of the foremost writers of the Beat Generation, lived in Northport during the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was a regular library patron. In Lowell, Massachusetts, where he grew up, the public library was one of his favorite places and a refuge when skipping school.

 

During his years living in Northport, Kerouac was a frequent visitor to the Northport Public Library on Main Street. By one account, he rarely entered the building but would leave his reading and reference requests with staff at the door. Later, on the way home from work, a staff member would drop the materials off at his house.

 

Jack Kerouac lived in three homes in Northport between April 1958 and April 1961 and then again between December 1962 and August 1964. He moved to this area, convenient to New York City, to find some calm for writing and to buy a home for his mother. According to an interview, Kerouac chose Northport because its hills reminded him of his New England upbringing.

 

Kerouac was already a celebrity when he moved to Long Island in 1958. On the Road had been published the year before and several more books were published while Kerouac lived in Northport. All had been written earlier. His time in Northport proved unproductive for Kerouac as a writer. Frequent visitors from the city distracted him, On the Road fans arrived at his doorstep unannounced, and Northport's Main Street bars enticed him.

 

Kerouac acquired several Northport friends with whom he would drink or play pool or softball. They tell stories of his quick intelligence and drunken escapades, and also of a generous, caring man who valued their friendship during and after his time in Northport.

 

In 1961, hoping that he would benefit from a fresh start, Kerouac and his mother relocated to Orlando, Florida, to live near his sister. Unhappy in Florida, he convinced his mother that they should return to Northport, which they did in 1962. But still searching for quiet, he left Northport again in 1964 and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. He remained in St. Petersburg Florida until his death on October 21, 1969.

 

The Northport-East Northport Public Library has several significant items related to Jack Kerouac in its collection including an oral history interview conducted with the library. This oral history is available on the adult patron computers in both library buildings.

 

In support of the continuing interest in Kerouac's writings and due to the time he spent living in Northport, the library has developed an extensive Kerouac collection — his writings, biographical and critical works, and other materials about the author.

 

 


 

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