About Jack Kerouac | Academy of American Poets
Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on March 12, 1922, Jack Kerouac, baptized Jean Louis Kirouac, was the youngest of three children of French-Canadian immigrants from Quebec, Canada. He grew up speaking the joual working-class French-Canadian dialect until he learned English at age five.
kerouac attended local catholic public schools and the horace mann school in new york city, as well as columbia university and the new school. He received athletic scholarships to attend the University of Boston, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Columbia, though an injury during his freshman year at Columbia kept him from playing and eventually led to his dropping out of school.
In 1942, Kerouac joined the United States Merchant Marine, and a year later he joined the United States Navy; he served only eight days of active duty before being honorably discharged on psychiatric grounds. Shortly thereafter, Kerouac was involved in the murder of David Kammerer, having helped his friend Lucien Carr dispose of evidence, and was arrested as a material witness. Unable to convince his father to post bail, Kerouac agreed to marry his fellow writer Edie Parker in exchange for her financial support and moved to Detroit, Michigan. Their marriage was quickly annulled due to infidelity, and Kerouac returned to New York City in 1944.
on kerouac’s return to new york, he lived with his parents in queens, where he wrote his first novel, the town and the city (harcourt brace, 1950). Through Carr, Kerouac had met many of the literary figures now associated with the Beat Generation, including Allen Ginsberg and William S. burroughs, and in 1949 he began his most famous literary work, on the road (viking press, 1957), which was tentatively titled “the beat generation” and “gone on the road”. Kerouac finished the largely autobiographical novel in April 1951, though it remained unpublished until 1957. During that time, Kerouac completed ten other autobiographical novels, including The Downworlders (Grove Press, 1958); doctor sax(grove press, 1959); sadness(avon, 1960); and angels of desolation (coward mccann, 1965).
in july 1957, kerouac moved to orlando, florida, while awaiting the release of on the road later that year. Soon after, the New York Times published a review praising Kerouac as the voice of a new generation. The success of the novel earned Kerouac celebrity status as one of America’s leading authors, and his friendship with Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Gregory Corso cemented the influence of what became known as the Beat generation. Kerouac’s other poet friends within this movement included Philip Lamantia, Gary Snyder, Philip Ballenan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Bob Kaufman, Diane Di Prima, Lew Welch, and Amiri Baraka.
Though best known for his novels, Kerouac is also associated with the poetry of the Beat movement, including the spoken word. Kerouac wrote that he wanted “to be regarded as a jazz poet who plays a long blues at a Sunday afternoon jazz session.” and in his “statement on poetics” for new american poetry, he states:
In his introduction to Kerouac’s blues book, poet Robert Creeley writes: “A common complaint made against Kerouac is that he was a ‘natural’ self-taught at best, at worst, an example of the cul de sac to which the self-taught in the arts invariably arrives, a solipsistic ‘world’ of its own limitations and confusions.” He goes on to state that Kerouac’s poems themselves “provide intensely vivid testimony to both the writer and the time.”
Other books published later in Kerouac’s career include the dharma bums and big sur.
jack kerouac died of chronic liver disease on october 21, 1969, in st. Anthony Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, the result of a lifetime of binge drinking.