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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 user. In Lowell, Massachusetts, where the writer grew up, the public library was one of his favorite places and a refuge when playing hooky from school. 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.

The Northport-East Northport Public Library is fortunate to have several significant items related to Jack Kerouac in its collection. Kerouac donated a typescript of The Town and the City , his first book, and contributed an interview to the Library. Recently, artist Stanley Twardowicz has given the Library copies of Kerouac material in his possession.

Because of continuing interest in these items and in Kerouac's time in Northport, the Library has developed an extensive Kerouac collection — his writings, biographical and critical works, and other materials about the author. This publication has been prepared as a guide to the Kerouac collection of the Northport-East Northport Public Library.

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

Hoping that he would benefit from a fresh start, in 1961 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. He left for good in 1964 and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, still searching for quiet.

Kerouac was already a celebrity when he moved to Long Island. 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, however, and this period was 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 good 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.

 

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