Kerouac, Jack, 1922-1969

Alternative names
Birth 1922-03-12
Death 1969-10-21

Biographical notes:

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) was an American Beat novelist, essayist, and poet.

From the description of Jack Kerouac Papers, 1920-1977 bulk 1935-1969. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122354098

Jack Kerouac was an American Beat novelist, essayist, and poet.

From the description of Jack Kerouac collection of papers, 1943-1969. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122313929

From the guide to the Jack Kerouac collection of papers, 1942]-1969, (The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.)

Jack Kerouac was the avatar of the Beat Generation, a phrase he coined to describe those dissatisfied with the repressive climate in America after World War II. Born into poor circumstances in Massachusetts, Kerouac attended Columbia on a football scholarship, but left to serve stints in the Merchant Marine and the Navy. Inspired by Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and Neal Cassady, Kerouac produced a series of 'spontaneous prose' works, the most famous of which is On the Road, the seminal novel of his generation. His influence on American culture and literature is notable.

From the description of Jack Kerouac poems, 1966-1971. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 55998284

American writer in many literary forms, "beat" generation writer.

From the description of Letter to Marshall Bean, 1965 December 7. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 35035732

From the description of Letter to Marshall Bean [manuscript], 1965 December 7. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647880474

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), American Beat poet, essayist, and novelist.

From the description of Jack Kerouac collection, 1950-1959. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 739645235

American novelist and poet.

From the description of Jack Kerouac Collection, 1949-1982. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122492186

Kerouac, Jack (b. Jean Louis Lebris de Kerouac) (Jean-Louis, Jean Louis Incognito, John Kerouac, pen-names.) Born in Lowell, Mass. He studied at Columbia University (1940--42), and served in the Merchant Marine (1942; 1943) and the Navy (1943). Later he studied at the New School for Social Research (1948--49). He lived with his mother in Lowell, held a variety of jobs, and traveled throughout the United States and Mexico. The publication of On the Road (1957), an autobiographical tale of his wanderings with Neal Cassady, established his reputation as a spokesman for the Beat Generation. His last major work, Big Sur (1962), described the price he paid for success, and he lived out his final years back in Lowell with his mother.

From the description of Jack Kerouac collection. [ca. 1959]. (University of Victoria Libraries). WorldCat record id: 667850649

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) was an American novelist, writer, poet, and artist. He coined the term "Beat Generation," referring to a group of underground, anti-conformist young New York writers and novelists, of which he himself -- with William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg -- was the best known. Although Kerouac received relatively little critical praise during his life, he has since been recognized as an important and influential author, inspiring not only other writers but also musicians. He is often credited with being the catalyst for the 1960s counterculture movement. Kerouac's best known works are On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur and Visions of Cody .

From the guide to the Jack Kerouac Papers, 1956-1966, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)


From the description of Papers, 1949-1988. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155545685

From the description of Jack Kerouac letters, 1945-1969. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 506124261

Canadian-American, author and poet best known for his book: On the Road.

From the description of Jack Kerouac letters, 1949-1968 [manuscript]. (Denver Public Library). WorldCat record id: 696655955

These typescripts were submitted to Professor Elbert Lenrow for his Course #224, "The 20th Century Novel in America."

From the description of Unpublished typescripts written in partial fulfillment of course requirements at The New School for Social Research, 1948 & 1949. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122500298

Born in 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts, Jean Louis Lebris 'Jack' Kerouac was the last of three children born to French-Canadian parents. Raised in a French-Canadian community, Kerouac did not begin to learn English until he entered school at the age of six and he did not become fluent until he entered a public junior high school. At this same school, an eighth-grade English teacher recognized and began to encourage Kerouac's writing talents. This recognition of his potential engendered a passion for literacy and language which stayed with Kerouac all of his life. He became a voracious reader, often skipping classes in high school in order to select his own material at the library. Also a talented athlete, Kerouac became a star on the school football team and was offered football scholarships to both Boston College and Columbia University.

Kerouac entered Columbia in 1940 after a successful year at prep school where he played football, wrote for school publications, and developed a lively interest in jazz. His record at Columbia was not as good. While he enjoyed his Shakespeare class, he failed chemistry, and broke his leg early in the first football season. After his injury his interest in classes declined further as he spent his time reading the newly discovered works of Thomas Wolfe who would influence him for years to come. In September of 1941 he quit football and school and spent the next several years working at a variety of odd jobs, including a stint in the merchant marine; in February 1943 he enlisted in the Navy. He was honorably discharged a month later as an indifferent character. During a second stint in the merchant marine Kerouac had a vision of his true role in life, that of divine scribe and he conceived the idea for a connected series of stories about his adventures.

Back in New York in the spring of 1944 Kerouac married Edie Parker as a means of raising bond money after a friend, Lucien Carr, involved him as a material witness in a murder case. After a few months of living a normal life in Michigan with his wife, Kerouac ran off to join the merchant marine again, but jumped ship and wound up back in New York. By 1945 Kerouac was living with his wife, his friend and mentor William Burroughs, and Joan Vollmer. Kerouac had also formed a close friendship with Allen Ginsberg by this time. Both young men were attempting to overcome the boundaries and conventions of the times and were experimenting with religious practice, sexual preferences, and drugs. Late in the year, weakened by Benzedrine addiction, Kerouac developed thrombophlebitis and spent a month in the hospital before returning home to his family to help nurse his father who had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. The death of his father in 1946 provided a catharsis for Kerouac, who almost immediately after the funeral began writing what would become his first novel, The Town and the City (1950).

With the advance money from The Town and The City Kerouac moved himself and his mother to Colorado where he began conceptualizing the story which would become On the Road (1957), based in part on road trips he took with Neal Cassady. When the advance money ran out Kerouac returned to New York where, in 1951, inspired by a 23,000 word free form letter from Cassady, he taped reams of paper together into a scroll and typed 175,000 words in twenty days--the first complete draft of On the Road. Meanwhile, his marriage to Edie Parker had been annualled and he had remarried in 1950, this time to Joan Haverty. Not long after Kerouac finished his manuscript, Haverty threw him out and filed for divorce, despite being pregnant with Kerouac's daughter.

Kerouac's search for a personal style was finally realized in late 1951 when a friend suggested that he sketch pictures with words. This suggestion caused something to click in his mind and allowed him to finally express what he was trying to do. The term he came up with was Spontaneous Prose, and the first true example of it was Visions of Cody (1952), originally part of On the Road, but extracted as an independent story.

Kerouac continued to write and to refine his style. His work never received much favor with the established literary critics, especially during the fifties when anything that seemed to support anarchy was vilified. In 1966 Kerouac married Stella Sampas, the sister of his childhood friend Sebastian Sampas. He died in St. Petersburg, Florida, of a ruptured stomach vein in October 1969.

From the guide to the Jack Kerouac Papers TXRC00-A12., 1948-1982, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)

Jack Kerouac (Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac) was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on March 12, 1922. His father, Leo Alcide Kerouac was a job printer. His mother, Gabrielle Ange Kerouac (nee Levesque) was a shoe-factory worker. Both parents were French-Canadian, and Jack Kerouac grew up in a predominantly Roman Catholic, French-Canadian community in Lowell. He was recognized as an outstanding athlete, and won a football scholarship to Columbia University. Prior to attending Columbia he spent a preparatory year at Horace Mann School for Boys, where he wrote for school publications. He became determined to be a major American writer during his high school years; the early materials in his Archive reflect this youthful determination.

Kerouac entered Columbia in 1940 but after breaking his leg during his first football season his academic interest declined, and he spent his time on independent reading, including the work of Thomas Wolfe, whose work exerted an influence on Kerouac's writing for many years afterwards. He left Columbia during the fall of his sophomore year in 1941, and spent the following years working at a variety of odd jobs. After nearly two years in the merchant marine he enlisted in the United States Navy in 1943 but was released from duty after six months for psychological reasons, honorably discharged as an "indifferent character." He spent the remainder of World War II in the merchant marine.

During this period, when in New York, he associated with a bohemian group of students around the Columbia campus. This group included Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. Both appear, thinly-disguised, in several of Kerouac's novels, and he would later give each writer the title for their best-known works -- "Howl" and "Naked Lunch."

After marrying Edith Parker in 1944 he embarked upon a series of cross-country journeys, moving continuously between New York, Denver, San Francisco, Mexico City, and back to New York. These travels became the basis of his novel "On The Road." Kerouac traveled extensively with Neal Cassady, an inspiring, charismatic drifter from Denver with whom he shared a hunger for philosophy, theology, literature, sex, drugs, sensation and salvation. His marriage to Edith Parker was annulled in 1945.

His father's death, in 1946, spurred him to begin writing the novel published in 1950 as "The Town and the City," a minor critical but not financial success. With the advance for "The Town and the City" Kerouac was able to move himself, and his mother, to Colorado, where he began to formulate the narrative that would eventually become "On The Road."

After the advance money ran out he returned to New York and, between 1948 and 1949, enrolled at the New School for Social Research, where he attended Alfred Kazin's classes on the visionary poet William Blake. Kerouac married Joan Haverty in November 1950. The following year, inspired by reading a 23,000 word letter from Neal Cassady, he spent three-weeks typing the 175,000 word first draft of "On The Road" on a constructed paper scroll. The completion of this draft coincided with the demise of his second marriage.

"On The Road" was published in 1957; its publication was hailed by Gilbert Millstein, reviewing it for The New York Times, as "a historic occasion." Millstein was unequivocal in his praise of the novel, regarding it as "the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as 'beat' and whose principal avatar he is."

Developing and refining his style, which he called "Spontaneous Prose," Kerouac produced eight more books over the next few years, as publishers capitalized on the attention generated by the publication of "On The Road." He wrote "The Subterraneans" in three Benzedrine-fuelled days of manic writing in 1957.

Kerouac was the first of the beat writers to look to Buddhism and the East for inspiration, calling himself "a religious wanderer" or "dharma bum." He became, however, increasingly alienated from his fans in the 1960s, bewildered by the radical politics of the new counter-cultural currents that he had played a large part in setting in motion. He continued to drink heavily, shunned literary society, and withdrew to St. Petersburg, Florida, or his home-town of Lowell, where he lived with his ailing mother and his third wife, Stella, whom he married in 1966.

He died on October 21, 1969, as a result of complications brought on by alcoholism.

March 12, 1922Born in Lowell, Massachusetts. 1934Leo Kerouac takes his son to Rockingham Park to see his first horse race. Jack Kerouac creates his horse racing fantasy and its chronicle, "The Turf." 1939June 28: Kerouac graduates Lowell High School. September 22: Kerouac begins a post-graduate year at Horace Mann Prep school in New York. November 22: Lowell Sun newspaper prints an article about Kerouac's football achievements at Horace Mann. Kerouac's short story "The Brothers" is published in the Horace Mann Quarterly. 1940September: Kerouac starts attending Columbia University on a football scholarship. October 12: Kerouac breaks his leg during a football game. 1941October: Kerouac leaves Columbia University. 1942July 21: Kerouac joins Merchant Marines and sails to Greenland aboard the S.S. Dorchester. October 5: Kerouac is discharged from the Merchant Marines in New York. Returns to Columbia University for a few weeks. Kerouac creates the "Duluoz" pseudonym. 1944Kerouac meets William S. Burroughs. Kerouac's childhood friend Sebastian "Sammy" Sampas is killed in action. Kerouac meets Allen Ginsberg. Marries Edie Parker. 1945Kerouac co-writes with Burroughs "And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks." 1946Death of Leo Kerouac, Jack Kerouac's father. Kerouac begins "The Town and the City." Begins using Benzedrine regularly. December: Meets Neil Cassady. Kerouac's marriage to Edie Parker is annulled. 1948Begins "The Town and the City". Meets John Clellon Holmes. 1949"The Town and the City" accepted for publication. Kerouac uses the term "beat generation" for the first time. 1950"The Town and the City" published. Marries Joan Haverty. 1951Writes "On The Road" on a paper scroll. Separates from Joan Haverty. Ace books give Kerouac $250 advance for "On the Road." 1952Writes "Doctor Sax." Works as a railroad brakeman in California. 1953Writes "Maggie Cassidy." Works for the Southern Pacific Railroad in San Jose. Writes "The Subterraneans." 1954Begins writing "Some of the Dharma." Begins writing "San Francisco Blues" poems; begins "Book of Dreams." Sterling Lord becomes Kerouac's literary agent. 1955Begins "Tristessa." Writes "Mexico City Blues." Kerouac meets Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Michael McClure. October: With Gary Snyder and John Montgomery, Kerouac climbs the 12,000 foot high Matterhorn mountain in the Sierra Nevada chain. December 22: Kerouac returns to Rocky Mount, North Carolina and begins writing "Visions of Gerard." 1956Completes "Visions of Gerard." July-September: Alone on Desolation Peak in the Cascade Mountains working as a firewatcher. September: After more than 60 days of solitude on Desolation Peak, Kerouac comes down from the mountain and travels to Seattle. Completes "Tristessa" and begins "Desolation Angels." Mid-December: Viking Press accepts "On The Road" for publication. 1957Types up "The Subterraneans." Visits William S. Burroughs in Tangier. September 5: "On The Road" published. Writes "The Dharma Bums." Writes the play "Beat Generation." 1958Begins "Memory Babe." "The Subterraneans" and "The Dharma Bums" published. 1959Begins writing column for Escapade magazine. "Doctor Sax: Faust Part Three," "Mexico City Blues," and "Maggie Cassidy: A Love Story" published. Excerpts from "Visions of Cody" published in a limited edition. 1960"Tristessa," "Lonesome Traveler" and "The Scripture of the Golden Eternity" published. 1961Writes "Big Sur." "Book of Dreams" published. 1962"Big Sur" published. Begins writing "Vanity of Duluoz." 1963"Visions of Gerard" published. 1965"Desolation Angels" published. Writes "Satori in Paris." 1966"Satori in Paris" published. Kerouac marries Stella Sampas. 1967Completes "Vanity of Duluoz." 1968"Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education" published. 1969Begins work on "Pic." October 21: Jack Kerouac dies from internal bleeding at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. October 24: Kerouac's funeral is held at St. Jean Baptiste Roman Catholic Church in Lowell. He is buried at the Edson Cemetery in Lowell.

From the guide to the Jack Kerouac Papers, 1920-1977, 1935-1969, (The New York Public Library. Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature.)

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Jack Kerouac, born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, was born in 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts to French Canadian parents. Kerouac spent much of his youth engaged in sports and other physical activities. His athletic prowess earned him a football scholarship to Columbia University where he matriculated in 1940, but he left Columbia in the Fall of 1941 after sustaining an injury that left him unable to play football.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Upon leaving the University Kerouac joined the Merchant Marine and later the US Navy, but retained close ties to members of the Columbia community. He lived on Manhattan's Upper West Side with his girlfriend, later first wife, Barnard student Edie Parker and her friend Joan Vollmer. It was through Parker that Kerouac met Columbia students Allen Ginsberg and Lucien Carr and their friends William Burroughs and Herbert Huncke. This group of friends and writers which would later form the nucleus of the Beat Generation, was the inspiration for much of Kerouac's work.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Kerouac married Edie Parker in 1944 and moved with her to her home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, but their marriage lasted less than a year. Upon the annulment of the marriage, Kerouac returned to New York and his bohemian friends and began to write the novel which would become The Town and the City -- this novel, Kerouac's first, was published in 1950 to mild acclaim.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Kerouac's next novel, On the Road proved to be much more commercially and critically successful. This novel, published in 1957 documents a trip Kerouac took across the US and Northern Mexico with Neal Cassady. This fictionalized account of Kerouac and his friends introduced the beats to America solidified the image of the beatnik with his interest in sexual freedom, jazz, and drug use in the popular imagination.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Though Kerouac's goal had long been to be a writer, the success of On the Road never sat entirely well with its author. Kerouac continued to write his thinly veiled autobiographical novels chronicling his bohemian, literary circle of friends, but in his personal life he began to pull away from the public eye and distance himself from his Beat Generation associated. He moved to Northport, Long Island to care for his aging parents and growing more personally and politically conservative.

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Kerouac died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1969.

From the guide to the Jack Kerouac Papers, 1945-1971., (Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library)


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