Kerouac: The Definitive Biography

ISBN: 1589793668
ISBN 13: 9781589793668
By: Paul Maher Jr. David Amram

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About this book

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.

Reader's Thoughts


Maher had access to gold, restricted original material. He used it to beef up a tedious fan fiction type of biography. He has probably damaged Kerouac scholarship for decades. Another Sampa scam.


This books is wonderful, I'm really only about half-way through. But if you are looking for a biography about Jack Kerouac, this is the best book I would recommend to read.


New letters, manuscripts, notebooks, journals, etc., are constantly appearing from the privately-held Kerouac vault, so new Kerouac biographies are constantly superceding previous efforts. Maher's biography was with the full consent and permission of the estate to examine everything, for the first time. And who knew Kerouac was such an incredible filer and organizer; it turns out he kept, and organized, everything. So this book is aware of all the details and, because Kerouac was so fascinating, is a great read. The only reservation is that Maher refuses to look at certain issues, most notably the issue of Kerouac's sexuality -- or let's say, sexual fluidity. Now this had already been done -- clumsily, even egregiously -- by Ellis Amburn's Subterranean Kerouac, which wanted to read every Kerouac childhood wrestling match as homoerotic, and every football game as sublimated gay-bashing, and likes to dish through very badly footnoted/attributed stories. But Maher will tell the story of Columbia University officials barging into Ginsburg's dorm room and finding the two naked in bed without commentary, even though Kerouac would repeatedly in later years lash out at any suggestion of homosexuality in his work (which, after all, is all autobiographical). Maher evidently has been commissioned next to write a 3 volume Kerouac biography, with the first volume to appear in 2010, the second in 2012. Maybe Maher will feel more confident interpreting the Kerouac legacy in a deeper work, reflective of more time spent absorbing the vast Kerouac material -- or maybe the estate will have a less firm censoring hand, if that has been the problem. In any case, this is a step in the right direction, very readable, and worth it while you wait for the Accelerated Global Warming Edition.


great biography. brutal ending.


Another run-of-the-mill Kerouac bio that sheds no new light on the life or work of the King of the Beats. Recommend "Subterranean Kerouac: The Hidden Life of Jack Kerouac" by Ellis Auburn instead.

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