Produced on March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts, Jack Kerouac’s writing career started in the 1940s, but did not meet with commercial success until 1957, when On the Road was released. The novel became an American classic that defined the Beat Generation. Kerouac expired on October 21, 1969, from an abdominal hemorrhage, at age 47. A booming mill town in the mid-19th century, Lowell had become, by the time of Jack Kerouac’s arrival, a down and out burg where joblessness and heavy drinking endured. Leo Kerouac possessed his own print shop, Limelight Print, in downtown Lowell, and Gabrielle Kerouac, known to her kids as Memere, was a homemaker. Kerouac afterwards described the family’s home life: “My dad comes home from his printing shop and reverses his tie and removes [his] 1920s vest, and sits himself down at burger and boiled potatoes and bread and butter, and using the kiddies as well as the great wife.”
Jack Kerouac put a childhood disaster in the summer of 1926, when his beloved older brother Gerard died of rheumatic fever in the age of 9. Drowning in despair, the Kerouac family adopted their Catholic beliefs more deeply. Kerouac’s writing is filled with vivid memories of attending church as a kid: “From the open door of the church warm and gold light swarmed out on the snow. The sound of the electric organ and singing may be heard.”
Kerouac’s two favourite childhood pastimes were reading and sports. He devoured all the 10-cent fiction magazines offered by the neighborhood shops, and he also excelled at football, basketball and track. Although Kerouac dreamed of being a novelist and composing the “great American novel,” it was sports, not writing, that Kerouac viewed as his ticket to a safe future. Together with the start of the Great Depression, the Kerouac family suffered from financial problems, and Kerouac’s dad turned to booze and gambling to make do. So, in the age of 17, Kerouac packed his bags and moved to Nyc, where he was immediately awed by the limitless new encounters of big city life. Of the countless amazing new matters Kerouac found in The Big Apple, and probably the most powerful on his life, was jazz. It was also during his year at Horace Mann that Kerouac first started composing seriously.
The next year, in 1940, Kerouac started his freshman year as a football player and aspiring writer at Columbia University. Nevertheless, he broke his leg in among his first matches and was relegated to the sidelines for the remaining season. Although his leg had healed, Kerouac’s trainer refused to let him play another year, and Kerouac impulsively quit the team and dropped from school. He spent another year working odd jobs and trying to determine what things to make of his life. He spent several months pumping gasoline in Hartford, Connecticut. Finally Kerouac chose to join the military to fight because of his country in the Second World War.
After his dismissal in the Marines, Kerouac returned to Nyc and fell in using several buddies that will eventually define a literary movement. He befriended Allen Ginsberg, a Columbia student, and William Burroughs, another school dropout and aspiring writer. Collectively, these three buddies would continue to become the leaders of the Beat Generation of writers.
Living in The Big Apple in the late 1940s, Kerouac wrote his first novel, Town and City, an extremely autobiographical story concerning the junction of small town family values as well as the delight of urban life. The novel was released in 1950 together with the aid of Ginsberg’s Columbia professors, and although the well-reviewed publication earned Kerouac a modicum of acknowledgement, it failed to make him famous. Another of Kerouac’s New York buddies in the late 1940s was Neal Cassady; the two took several cross country road trips to Chicago, La, Denver, as well as Mexico City. These excursions provided the inspiration for Kerouac’s next and best novel, On the Road, a barely fictionalized accounts of the road trips packed with sex, drugs and jazz.
Kerouac did, actually, compose the novel on one scroll in three weeks, however he’d also spent many years making notes in preparation with this literary outburst. Kerouac termed this type of composing “spontaneous prose” and compared it to the improvisation of his beloved jazz musicians. Revision, he considered, was similar to lying and detracted in the power of prose to capture the truth of a second. Nevertheless, publishers blown off Kerouac’s single-scroll manuscript, as well as the novel remained unpublished for six years. As Kerouac’s girlfriend at that time, Joyce Johnson, put it, “Jack went to bed vague and woke up well-known.”
In the six years that passed between the composition and publication of On the Road, Kerouac traveled widely; experimented with Buddhism; and composed many novels that went unpublished at that time. His next printed novel, The Dharma Bums (1958), described Kerouac’s awkward measures toward religious enlightenment on a mountain climb with pal Gary Snyder, a Zen poet.
Kerouac’s most renowned later novels comprise Book of Dreams (1961), Big Sur (1962), Visions of Gerard (1963) and Vanity of Duluoz (1968). Kerouac also wrote poetry in his later years, composing mainly long-form free verse along with his own variation of the Japanese haiku form. Also, Kerouac released several records of spoken word poetry during his life.
Despite keeping a prolific speed of releasing and composing, Kerouac was never capable to handle the celebrity he reached after On the Road, and his life shortly devolved into a blur of drunkenness and drug addiction. He married Edie Parker in 1944, but their marriage ended in divorce after just several months. In 1950, Kerouac wed Joan Haverty, who gave birth to his only daughter, Jan Kerouac, yet this second union also ended in divorce after less than a year. Kerouac wed Stella Sampas, who had been also from Lowell, in 1966. He died from an abdominal hemorrhage three years after, on October 21, 1969, in the age of 47, in St. Petersburg, Florida. More than four decades after his passing, Jack Kerouac continues to catch the imagination of wayward and rebellious youth. Among the very enduring American novels ever, On the Road appears on virtually every record of the 100 greatest American novels.