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Nonfiction & Literary Criticism


French, Warren. Jack Kerouac. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1986.


Part of Twayne's United States Authors Series , this insightful work of literary criticism takes the contrarian position that although not as popular as the cult novel On the Road , the novels that comprise the autobiographical Duluoz Legend and, in particular Big Sur, are critically significant.


Hipkiss, Robert A. Jack Kerouac, Prophet of the New Romanticism: A Critical Study of the Published Works of Kerouac and a Comparison of Them to Those of   J.D. Salinger, James Purdy, John Knowles, and Ken Kesey. Lawrence, KS: Regents Press of Kansas, 1976.

 

This early critical study looks to nineteenth century English and American romanticism for the roots of Kerouac's protagonists' vision of life. It then compares Kerouac's work to other New Romantic American writers — Salinger, Purdy, Knowles, and Kesey. Kerouac's spontaneous prose writing style is also astutely evaluated.


Hunt, Tim. Kerouac's Crooked Road: Development of a Fiction. Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1981.


This insightful analysis of the five “road” novels places Kerouac in the center of American literary tradition, working out the strategies which link him to the conventional literature of Twain, Melville, and other American icons. Hunt's work demonstrates not only the changing aspects of the novels, but Kerouac's creative processes and development as a writer.

 

Jones, James T. Jack Kerouac's Duluoz Legend: The Mythic Form of an Autobiographical Fiction  Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University, 1999.


In the only critical examination of all of Jack Kerouac's published prose, James T. Jones turns to Freud to show how the great Beat writer used the Oedipus myth to shape not only his individual works but also the entire body of his writing.

 

Jones, James. T. A Map of Mexico City Blues: Jack Kerouac as Poet. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1992.

 

James Jones provides a brief summary of Jack Kerouac's poetic career as a framework for Kerouac's 242 choruses.   The “map” discusses Kerouac's various trips to Mexico, conversion to Buddhism, attraction to blues and jazz, and how these influenced the theme and structure of “Mexico City Blues.” This thorough explication demonstrates the major contribution that this work makes to post-WW II poetry and is an informed study of the work's significance for the Beat movement.

 

Kerouac, Jack, Albert Saijo, and Lew Welch. Trip Trap: Haiku on the Road. Edited by Donald Allen. Rev. Ed. San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1998.

 

On a rainy night in San Francisco, just before Thanksgiving in 1959, Jack Keroauc, Lew Welch, and Albert Saijo piled into Welch's car and set off on a cross-country trip, headed for New York City and then on to Keroauc's mother's home on Long Island.

 

 

Kerouac, Jack. The Portable Jack Kerouac. New York: Viking, 1995.  

 

These excerpts from the novels that make up Legend of Duluoz are arranged chronologically as we follow the protagonist from childhood (Visions of Gerard) to teenager (Maggie Cassidy) to young man (Vanity of Duluoz and On the Road) to road-weary traveler ( Visions of Cody and Tristessa) to seeker of truth ( Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels) to maturity (Big Sur).

 

Kerouac, Jack. Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956. Ann Charters, ed. New York: Viking, 1995.

 

The letters in this thoughtful collection begin in the year that Kerouac entered college and end in the year before the success of On the Road. Written to key members of the Beat movement, friends, and family, the correspondence represents a valuable group of literary artifacts. The letters give insight into Kerouac's relationships with their recipients, chronicle the development of his writing skills, and testify to his seemingly boundless wish to express himself. To connect any historical gaps, the editor provides helpful commentary and includes a few of the letters that Kerouac received back from his correspondents.

 

Kerouac, Jack. Selected Letters, 1957-1969. Ann Charters, ed. New York: Viking, 1999.

 

In this second volume of letters edited by Charters, the correspondence begins at the point that On the Road has been published and continues up until two days before Kerouac's death. Through these letters to friends and family, there is poignant documentation of the writer's changing state of mind — from enjoying fame, to seeking seclusion, and eventually stumbling toward his tragic end. Of special local interest are the letters written during the period when Kerouac lived in Northport, New York. The editor chooses well from amidst Kerouac's voluminous correspondence, and her insightful commentary completes any historical information that is not clear.

 

 

Montgomery, John, comp. Kerouac at the “Wild Boar” and Other Skirmishes. San Anselmo, CA: Fels & Firn Press, 1986.

 

In an eclectic collection of articles, stories, poems, and unpublished materials, Kerouac friends and scholars capture, in their own words, the spirit of this influential writer.


Swartz, Omar. The View From “On the Road”: The Rhetorical Vision of Jack Kerouac. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University, 1999.

 

Through careful analysis of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, Omar Swartz argues that Kerouac’s influence on American society is largely rhetorical. Kerouac’s significance as a cultural icon can be best understood, Swartz asserts, in terms of traditional rhetorical practices and principles.

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Theado, Matt. Understanding Jack Kerouac. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2000.


This work documents and analyzes the evolution of Kerouac's literary techniques and style. Studies of Kerouac's works often focus on his books in their order of publication, but this author uses the chronological order of when the books were actually written. The author traces Kerouac's use of themes, motifs, and language. Also included is a discussion of how elements of the various fictional plots related to real persons and events in Kerouac's life. This study adds perspective on how Kerouac's literary skills and spontaneous style developed.

 

Weinreich, Regina. The Spontaneous Poetics of Jack Kerouac: A Study of the Fiction.  New York: Marlowe & Co., 1995.


Explores Kerouac's place in American literature by establishing the total design of his work. The author contends that Kerouac wrote with a "grand design" in mind, that he thought of his works as one vast book.

 

 

Bibliographies


Anstee, Rod, comp. Jack Kerouac: The Bootleg Era - An Annotated List. Sudbury, MA: Water Row Press, 1994.


An annotated bibliography of Kerouac writings published “underground,” it provides publishing histories and physical descriptions of the varied materials included.


Charters, Ann, comp. A Bibliography of Works by Jack Kerouac (Jean Louis De Kerouac) 1939-1975. New York: Phoenix Bookshop, 1975.


In preparation of this book, Charters spent two days with Kerouac recording the author's carefully kept and almost complete collection of his own writings. Comments made by Kerouac during this collaboration are scattered throughout the bibliography and enhance the detailed descriptions of books, pamphlets, broadsides, periodical articles, translations, recordings, and works set to music.


Milewski, Robert J. Jack Kerouac: An Annotated Bibliography of Secondary Sources, 1944-1979. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1981.


This is a comprehensive, annotated list of reviews of Kerouac's work. Information on works about Kerouac, or works related to his life and writings are also included. The compilation contains a detailed biographical chronology.

 

 

 

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