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Jack Kerouac

Born on 12 March, 1922, Jack Kerouac was a pioneer of the Beat Generation alongside Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. He is best known for being the author of On the Road, Big Sur and The Town and the City.

His famous novels touch on the topics of spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs and travel. Jack Kerouac was a talented American football player at college before breaking his leg and turning to writing. His fellow Beat authors inspired many of his characters and he died on 21 October, 1969.



Jack Kerouac Books

  • AADSW
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    "On the Road" swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, jazz, sex, generosity, chill dawns and drugs, with Sal Paradise and his hero Dean Moriarty, traveller and mystic, the living epitome of Beat. Now recognized as a modern classic, its American Dream is nearer that of Walt Whitman than Scott Fitzgerald, and it goes racing towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and autobiographical passion.
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    'See my hand up-tipped, learn the secret of my human heart...'Soaring, freewheeling snapshots of life on the road across America, from the Beat writer who inspired a generation.Penguin Modern: fifty new books celebrating the pioneering spirit of the iconic Penguin Modern Classics series, with each one offering a concentrated hit of its contemporary, international flavour. Here are authors ranging from Kathy Acker to James Baldwin, Truman Capote to Stanislaw Lem and George Orwell to Shirley Jackson; essays radical and inspiring; poems moving and disturbing; stories surreal and fabulous; taking us from the deep South to modern Japan, New York's underground scene to the farthest reaches of outer space.
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    'What's your road, man - holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It's an anywhere road for anybody anyhow'. Sal Paradise, young and innocent, joins the slightly crazed Dean Moriarty on a breathless, exuberant ride back and forth across the United States. Their hedonistic search for release or fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz becomes an exploration of personal freedom, a test of the limits of the American Dream. A brilliant blend of fiction and autobiography, Jack Kerouac's exhilarating novel defined the new 'Beat' generation and became the bible of the counter culture.
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    This semi-autobiographical tale of Kerouac's own trip to France, to trace his ancestors and explore his own understanding of the Buddhism that came to define his beliefs, contains some of Kerouac's most lyrical descriptions. From his reports of the strangers he meets and the all-night conversations he enjoys in seedy bars in Paris and Brittany, to the moment in a cab he experiences Buddhism's satori - a feeling of sudden awakening - Kerouac's affecting and revolutionary writing transports the reader. Published at the height of his fame, "Satori in Paris" is a hectic tale of philosophy, identity and the powerful strangeness of travel.
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    The Subterraneans haunt the bars and clubs of San Francisco, surviving on a diet of booze and benzedrine, Proust and Verlaine. Living amongst them is Leo, an aspiring writer, and Mardou, half-Indian, half-Negro, beautiful and neurotic. Their bitter-sweet and ill-starred love affair sees Kerouac at his most evocative. Many regard this as being Kerouac's most touching and tender book.
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    In 1944, Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs were charged as accessories to murder. One of their friends, Lucien Carr, had stabbed another, David Kammerrer. Carr had come to each of them and confessed; Kerouac helped him get rid of the weapon - neither told the police. For this failing they were arrested. Months later, the two writers - unpublished at the time - collaborated on "And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks", a fictionalized account of the summer of the killing.
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    'It is the sum of myself, as far as the written word can go' - Kerouac on "The Town and the City". Kerouac's debut novel is a great coming of age story which can be read as the essential prelude to his later classics. Inspired by grief over his father's death and gripped by determination to write the Great American Novel, he draws largely on his own New England childhood.
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    "The Dharma Bums" appeared just one year after the author's explosive "On The Road" had put the Beat Generation on the literary map and Kerouac on the best-seller list. The same expansiveness, humour and contagious zest for life that sparked the earlier novels sparks this one too, but through a more cohesive story. The books follow two young men engaged in a passionate search for dharma or truth. Their major adventure is the pursuit of the Zen way, which takes them climbing into the high sierras to seek the lesson of solitude.
  • AEGOM
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    In 1960 Jack Kerouac was near breaking point. Driven mad by constant press attention in the wake of the publication of On the Road, he needed to 'get away to solitude again or die', so he withdrew to a cabin in Big Sur on the Californian coast. The resulting novel, in which his autobiographical hero Jack Duluoz wrestles with doubt, alcohol dependency and his urge towards self-destruction, is one of Kerouac's most personal and searingly honest works. Ending with the poem "Sea: Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur", it shows a man coming down from his hedonistic youth and trying to come to terms with fame, the world and himself.
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    "His first novel is a revelation ...the writing is vivid, serious and extraordinary ...wonderful". ("The Times"). "The Sea is My Brother" is Jack Kerouac's very first novel, begun shortly after his tour as a merchant sailor in 1942. Lost during his lifetime, it is an intense portrait of friendship and brotherhood and a meditation on the desire to escape society, following the fortunes of two men as they impulsively decide to work their passage on the S.S. Westminster: drinking, arguing, playing cards, dodging torpedoes and contemplating the vast, terrible beauty of the sea. Published with fragments of early stories and letters, this visceral work gives a unique insight into the young Kerouac and the formation of his genius. "What's clear from this newly published first novel is that Kerouac was positively fizzing with talent at an early age". ("Sunday Times").
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    As he roams the US, Mexico, Morocco, Paris and London, Kerouac records life on the road in prose of pure poetry. Standing on the engine of a train as it rushes past fields of prickly cactus; witnessing his first bullfight in Mexico while high on opium; meditating on a sunlit roof in Tangiers or falling in love with Montmartre - Kerouac reveals both the endless diversity of human life and his own particular philosophy of self-fulfillment.
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    Moodily atmospheric, full of verve and energy, "Maggie Cassidy" is Kerouac's poignant tale of teenage romance in New England. The story of Jack and Maggie, in love with the idea of being in love, looking ahead to marriage with hope and trepidation, is told with touching simplicity. It skillfully captures both the intensity and the ordinariness of adolescent life, with its torments and complications and is a beautiful evocation of growing up in America.
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    "On the Road" chronicles Jack Kerouac's years traveling the North American continent with his friend Neal Cassady, "a sideburned hero of the snowy West." As "Sal Paradise" and "Dean Moriarty," the two roam the country in a quest for self-knowledge and experience. Kerouac's love of America, his compassion for humanity, and his sense of language as jazz combine to make "On the Road" an inspirational work of lasting importance.
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    An experimental novel which remained unpublished for years, "Visions of Cody" is Kerouac's fascinating examination of his own New York life, in a collection of colourful stream-of-consciousness essays. Transcribing taped conversations between members of their group as they took drugs and drank, this book reveals an intimate portrait of people caught up in destructive relationships with substances, and one another. Always fixated by Neal Cassady - the Cody of the title, renamed for the book along with Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs - Kerouac also explores the feelings he had for a man who would inspire much of his work.
  • ADSTM
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    The tale of Kerouac's alter-ego, "Vanity of Duluoz" presents Jack Duluoz's high school experiences as a sporting jock in Massachusetts and his time at Columbia University on a football scholarship. Just as Jack's glamorous new adult life begins, so does World War II, and he joins the US Navy to travel the world. As Jack experiences more, he realizes the limits of his former plans and returns to New York at the start of the Beat movement, to a riot of drugs, sex and writing. "Vanity of Duluoz" was Kerouac's final work published before his death in 1969.
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    Never before published in Kerouac's lifetime, this 1955 biography of the founder of Buddhism is a clear and powerful study of Siddartha Gautama's life and works. "Wake Up" recounts the story of Prince Siddhartha's royal upbringing and his father's wish to protect him from all human suffering, despite a prediction that he would become a great holy man in later life. Departing from his father's palace, Siddhartha adopts a homeless life, struggles with his meditations, and eventually finds Enlightenment. Written at the end of Kerouac's career, when he became increasingly interested in Buddhist teachings, and collected for the first time in one book, this fresh and accessible biography is both an important addition to Kerouac's work and a valuable introduction to the world of Buddhism itself.
  • ANDHU
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    The Haunted Life is the coming-of-age story of Peter Martin, a college track star determined to idle away what he knows will be one of his last innocent summers in his tranquil New England home town. But with the war escalating in Europe and his two closest friends both plotting their escapes, he realizes how sheltered his upbringing has been. As he surveys the competing influences of his youth, he struggles to determine what might lead to an intellectually authentic life. The Haunted Life is ultimately a meditation on intellectual truth, male friendship and the desire for movement - all themes that would dominate Kerouac's later work.