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Kerouac: The Definitive Biography

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Kerouac: The Definitive Biography.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Paul Maher(Author)

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This is the authoritative biography of writer, poet, and beat generation icon Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), whose novel, "On the Road", catapulted him to the forefront of the literary world and influenced budding writers for generations to come. A legendary figure in the landscape of American literature, Kerouac lived a turbulent life, one more intimately connected to his literary output than perhaps any other writer. Restless traveler, alcoholic, dissolute but devoted Catholic, and genius, Kerouac lived hard with his compatriots of the beat movement - William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady. With them, he created a new type of American literature as well as an enduring literary mythology. "Kerouac: The Definitive Biography" recounts in gripping detail the story of this exceptional life and the key relationships that affected Kerouac's development as an artist, including those with his three wives, numerous girlfriends, and beloved mother. Most important, Kerouac is the first biography based wholly on the vast array of primary source materials contemporary to the events described - letters, postcards, diaries, journals, notebooks, newspaper and magazine articles, legal documents, and television and audio transcripts - sources that provide an unparalleled view of the intimate thoughts and everyday world of Kerouac.

With enormous sensitivity and thoughtfulness, Paul Maher Jr. captures the essence of Jack Kerouac's peripatetic life on the margins of American society. Maher brings together those curious personalities and bizarre places that made Kerouac an intensely complex man, perceptive writer, and, ultimately, cultural icon of the 'beat' generation. This riveting biography is meticulously researched, vividly written and a substantial contribution to American cultural history.--Lester P. Lee Jr., Northeastern UniversityPaul Maher has unearthed a plethora of fascinating new information. He is, without question, one of the new leaders in interpreting the life of this literary legend whose reputation grows daily.--Douglas Brinkley, Historian and editor of "Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac"Unique among Kerouac biographers for his prodigious archival research, Paul Maher tells a magnificant American story of a small-town boy who loved books, created himself as a writer, and destroyed himself. You can spot-check a month or year in this rigorously chronological documentation, or, better, seat yourself for the whole inspiring, infuriating, appalling story. Taking his hint from Kerouac's famous scroll, the ruthlessly non-judgmental Maher unrolls a panorama where squalid settings are thronged by a gaudy, self-indulgent, yet profoundly creative literary generation held at bay by baffled editors, publishers, and critics.--Hershel Parker, author of Herman Melville: A Biography

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Book details

  • PDF | 584 pages
  • Paul Maher(Author)
  • Taylor Trade Publishing; New edition edition (1 May 2007)
  • English
  • 2
  • Poetry, Drama & Criticism

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Review Text

  • By Peter King on 14 February 2017

    I enjoyed this biography very much. I’ve read a number of Kerouac's biographies over the years, and almost certainly have forgotten more than I have retained. I’d thought that there must be nothing further to add, but my interest was provoked by reading Paul Maher’s shorter work “Burning Furiously Beautiful” as I felt this had enough of a new perspective to make me want to read the author’s longer book.Kerouac, like most of us, was a complex individual who showed different sides of himself to different sets of acquaintances, so naturally it is difficult to believe that anyone will ever produce the definitive Kerouac portrait. However, Maher, more than any other biographer, has based his biography on the personal records of Kerouac as found in his private journals and correspondence. This makes very interesting reading, and I had a very real sense that Kerouac’s inner thoughts were being tracked through the years. Maher also benefits in that the general events of Jack’s life, especially the more sensational, have been well-covered in the various histories/ biographies of the Beats. This means that he does not have to devote extensive pages on, to give just two examples, the murder of David Kammerer or the sad death of Joan Vollmer, instead he can continue tracking the internal Kerouac of his journals and letters.I particularly appreciated the account of Kerouac’s life after the publication of “On the Road” as I found this more detailed and more explicit of his sad deterioration than other accounts that I’ve read. To give some comparison to other biographies on my shelf: at a rough estimate, Maher devotes 130 pages to the period of time between the publication of “On the Road” and Kerouac’s death, whereas in contrast Ann Charters has 68, “Jack’s Book” has 90, Miles has 63, Amburn 105, Nicosia 140, while Joyce Johnson’s excellent work ends in 1951. Bearing in mind that Maher focuses more on the private Kerouac than these others, I think this helps give a better, though sad, understanding of these post-success years. To give just one example: it’s almost a mantra in Beat biographies that Jack should have got away from his mother, but at the same time it seems clear that in her old age he may well have organised her care and looked after her better and with a greater sense of obligation than that shown by many others for their own mothers.I also really liked the details of his extensive solo hitch-hiking and train jumping. Perhaps I’ve forgotten this from other works, but I’m sure that Maher devotes more time to tracking these semi-hobo journeys than others. Again, I greatly appreciated this, and felt it gave me a better understanding of the man.In addition I thought the account of Kerouac's relationship with Carolyn Cassady was more substantial than I remember in other biographies.I enjoyed this quote from a 1957 letter to Edie Parker (Dietz) (please note that this is just a quote that I particularly savoured and of course does not reflect the book as a whole): “….listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky ways of cloudy innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere, or one universal self. Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes through everything is one thing. It’s a dream already ended. There’s nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about.”All in all an essential book for those interested in Kerouac.

  • By J. E. Robinson on 11 September 2004

    This is a new biography about 500 pages long covering virtually all of the life of Jack Kerouac. It is written by a long time Kerouac "fan and student", a local Lowell, Mass. High-school teacher Paul Maher. Basically it is a sold and well written book. I do have a couple of very minor problems about the biography concerning the level of detail. I think for many it is almost too much detail about the non-creative side of his life, and it might have been better to have a bit less detail about his marriages and more details on his books and how they evolved and fit in with his life - but that is just my personal preference and many will like what the author has done. That is why I am giving it 4 stars not 5.The book starts of with the Keouac family in New Hampshire around 1720 and a good part of the book explores his family and childhood, especially his Lowell years. The author has included a nice collection of black and white photographs taken of Kerouac during the different stages of his life including some family photos. Pictures of his family in Lowell with his older brother and younger sister make Jack appear almost normal. Later we see him in a bar scene and other scenes wearing for example a rustic plaid shirt and pictures with his wives.The book appears to very complete and covers his parents and their problems, his creative and free spirit growing up, his scholarship to Columbia, navy career, three marriages and his famous friends or associates including Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady, the latter being his traveling companion in his famous novel On the Road. This was the famous "beat" movement - as most people are well aware. There are quite a few Ginsberg and Cassady references sprinkled through the book, and there are a lot of details on his marriages.Jack led an intensive life, often clashing with authorities, traveled widely, and moved a lot then died young at the age of 47 from a failing liver caused by too much drink. He left his mark in the literary world as a remarkable writer with a unique style. The book covers a lot of ground, both good and bad mainly on his personal life and especially his Lowell Massachusetts connection. The book is divided into many short chapters, each covering a short segment of his life, such as trips to Mexico, Denver, etc. and how he was changed by success - he did not like it. Having read some other biographies where I could compare at least two different authors of two different books, it is clear that any biography is dependent upon the author and his bias. Not being a Kerouac expert it is beyond my ability to and most readers to make those distinctions in the present case, but it seems accurate and relatively neutral in tone. It gives the good and some bad, and is not just a fawning positive fan book.Solid job, lots of detail for Kerouac lovers, 4 stars, possibly 5.


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