A Biography, Bibliography, and Assorted Links

Jack Kerouac in Fred W. McDarrah's New York apartment, Dec. 10, 1959

Jack in Fred W. McDarrah’s apartment, Dec. 10, 1959. Copyright: Fred McDarrah/Getty Images

Born Jean-Louis Kerouac, Kerouac is the most famous native son of Lowell, Massachusetts. His parents had immigrated as very young children from the Province of Quebec, Canada, and Kerouac spoke a local French Canadian-American dialect before he spoke English. He was a football star at Lowell High School and upon graduation in 1939 was awarded a scholarship to Columbia University. However, after an injury sidelined him on the football team, Kerouac grew unhappy with Columbia and dropped out of school. During this period in New York City, Kerouac became friends with the poet Allen Ginsberg and the novelist William S. Burroughs, as well as Herbert Huncke and others who would be associated with the “Beat Generation.” 

During World War II, he briefly joined the Merchant Marine and the U.S. Navy, and after the war, in 1947, he met Neal Cassady, with whom he would in the late 1940s begin crisscrossing the country by automobile.

Kerouac wrote his first novel, “The Town and the City,” about his struggle to balance the expectations of his family with his unconventional life, which was published in 1950 with Ginsberg’s help. Kerouac took several cross-country trips with Cassady during this time, which became the basis for his most famous work, “On The Road.” The manuscript – presented to his editor on a single, unbroken roll of paper, the scroll that was later exhibited to record crowds in Lowell – was rejected and six years would pass before it was published in 1957. In the years in between, Kerouac followed Ginsberg and Cassady to San Francisco and the term “Beat Generation,” which Kerouac coined, gained popularity. When Kerouac finally broke through with the release of “On The Road, he was faced with challenges presented by the fame that followed as he tried to live up to the image portrayed in his novels and facing criticism from the literary establishment for being part of what was considered a fad. He would go on to publish additional novels, many of which used settings based on Lowell – including “Doctor Sax,” “The Subterraneans,” “The Dharma Bums” and his final great work, “Big Sur.” He settled in Florida with his wife, Stella Sampas, and his mother, where he died in 1969 at age 47. He was buried in Lowell.

Even after his death, Kerouac’s popularity continues. “On The Road” has remained widely read and a new film adaptation of the novel starring Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Kerouac was named one of the most important figures of the 20th century by LIFE Magazine and The Times of London and interest in Kerouac has grown with the publication of his letters, poetry, spiritual writings, early novels and more from his remarkable literary archive. He has been cited as an influence by countless writers and musicians, including The Doors, Bob Dylan, and Patti Smith.


Major Works of Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Correspondences

1950 The Town and The City
Harcourt Brace

1957 On the Road

1958 Dharma Bums

1958 The Subterraneans
Grove Press

1959 Mexico City Blues
Grove Press

1959 Maggie Cassidy
Avon Original

1959 Dr Sax
Grove Press

1959 Visions of Cody
750 Autographed Copies
New Directions Pub.

1960 Tristessa
Avon Books

1960 Lonesome Traveller

1960 Scripture of The Golden Eternity
Corinth Books

1961 Book of Dreams
City Lights

1961 Pull My Daisy

1962 Big Sur
Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy

1963 Visions of Gerard
Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy

1965 Desolation Angels

1966 Satori In Paris
Grove Press

1968 Vanity of Duluoz

1971 Scattered Poems
City Lights

1971 Pic
Grove Press

1972 Visions of Cody

1973 Trip Trap
Grey Fox Press

1977 Heaven and Other Poems
Grey Fox Press

1992 Poems All Sizes
City Lights

1993 Good Blonde and Others
Grey Fox Press

1993 ’61, ’64, ’93 Old Angel Midnight
Grey Fox Press

1995 Selected Letters 1940-1956

1995 Portable Jack Kerouac
Penguin Books

1995 Book of Blues
Penguin Books

1997 Some of The Dharma

1999 Selected Letters 1957-1969

1999 Atop an Underwood

2000 Door Wide Open

2000 Orpheus Emerged
I Books

2001 Book of Dreams
City Lights

2003 Book of Haikus
Penguin Books

2004 Departed Angels
Thunder’s Mouth Press

2004 Wind Blown World
Penguin Books

2005 Beat Generation
Thunder’s Mouth Press

2006 Book of Sketches
Penguin Poets

2007 On the Road, The Original Scroll

2007 Beatific Soul

2008 Wake Up

2008 On The Road, Ed RuschaLimited Edition
500 copies

2008 And the Hippos Were
Boiled In Their Tanks
Grove Press

2009 Kerouac At Bat

2009 You’re Genius All The Time:
Belief and Technique for Modern Prose
Chronicle Books

2010 Kerouac Ascending
Cambridge Scholars Pub.

2010 Jack Kerouac/Allan Ginsberg
The Letters

2012 The Sea is My Brother

2012 Jack Kerouac Collected Poems
Library of America

2014 The Haunted Life

2015 Kerouac: Visions of Cody, Visions of Gerard, and Big Sur

Library of America Compilation


Video Links:

Kerouac interview on the Ben Hecht Show, October 1958
Kerouac on the Beats, 1959
Kerouac and the railroad lantern, 1959
Kerouac on Steve Allen Show, November 1959. Includes readings from Visions of Cody & On the Road
Kerouac reading from “
October in the Railroad Earth(1959) with Steve Allen on piano
Kerouac reading from
Doctor Sax and Old Angel Midnight for Lois Sorrells, 1961 (transcript and audio recording)
Precursors of the Hippies – includes interviews with Kerouac & Ferlinghetti, December 1964
Kerouac interview by Fernanda Pivano, Italy, 1966
Kerouac shooting pool – Lowell – 1967
Kerouac on the William Buckley Show, with Ed Sanders & others, September 1968
Kerouac interview with Fernand Seguin – 5 min extract with English subtitles
The Jack Kerouac Symposium at Salem State College, Mass., April 1973

Movie Documentaries Links:

Pull My Daisy (1959) – Robert Frank’s movie of Jack’s play, narrated by Kerouac
Kerouac, the Movie (aka Jack Kerouac’s America, aka Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats) (1984). Dir. John Antonelli
What Happened to Kerouac? (1986). Dir. Richard Lerner  
Le Grand Jack (French-Canadian documentary) (1987). Dir. Herménégilde Chiasson
Kerouac: On the Road to Desolation (1997). Dir. David Stewart 
The Source: The story of the Beat Generation (1999). Dir. Chuck Workman Pt 1Pt 2; Pt 3;  Pt 4;  Pt 5;  Pt 6;  Pt 7
Lowell Blues – The Words of Jack Kerouac (2000). Dir. Henri Ferrini

Kerouac – Other Resources:

The Kerouac Companion (character keys and family trees)
Gallery of On the Road covers from around the world
Gallery of Visions of Cody covers
More Kerouac book covers
List of recordings relating to Kerouac and Cassady
Kerouac Corner – An occasional column about Jack’s life and writings
Kerouac & The Outsider – A Puzzle
An interview with Kerouac’s friend, Henri Cru
An interview with Kerouac’s old buddy, Seymour Wyse
The Breton Traveller: Kerouac’s Search for his Roots

Published Interview Links:

Al Aronowitz interviewNew York Post, March 1959
Paris Review interview – with Ted Berrigan & others, June 1967

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