Considered one of the Godfathers of the Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac delivered his unique voice and perspectives on life to an era that included Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski, Bob Kaufman, and William S. Burroughs.
It was post-World War II America, and many young people who had fought overseas had returned with no real sense of purpose. Kerouac captures that wanderlust and rebellious spirit in his writings, most famously in On the Road.
An avid reader and sports enthusiast at a young age, Kerouac was born in 1922 to immigrant parents. He spoke French at home and learned English at school. After a series of tragic events at home, including the death of his older brother, the family’s spiral into poverty, and his father’s alcoholism, Kerouac escaped to New York after graduating from high school.
A football scholarship got him into Columbia University in 1940, but a broken leg led to him being sidelined, and he dropped out the next year. After working various odd jobs along the East Coast, Kerouac enlisted with the U.S. Navy in 1943 to help fight in WWII. His stint only lasted 10 days as he was honorably discharged for having “strong schizoid trends.”
Upon returning to New York, he became friends with two other young men, Allen Ginsburg and William S. Burroughs. It was through their friendship and writings that the Beat Movement found its origins.
Kerouac began to write novels in the late 1940s, but he wouldn’t achieve any acclaim for his work on a wide scale until 1957 when On the Road was published and received rave reviews. His other works include Town and Country (his first novel), The Dharma Bums, Doctor Sax, Lonesome Traveler, Big Sur, and Desolation Angels. He also wrote poetry, plays, and spoken work albums.
Sadly, Kerouac died of a “massive abdominal hemorrhage” at the age of 47 in 1969.
Below are interviews with Kerouac, a few videos about the Beat Generation, and Kerouac reading some of his poems and excerpts from his novels.
Check out Kerouac’s bio HERE.
Learn more about Kerouac and The Beat Museum HERE.
And check out The Kerouac Society HERE.
Back in two weeks with another great writer!