Jean-Louis "Jack" Kerouac was a American writer (of French-Canadian descent) associated with The Beat Generation
and best known for writing On the Road
, an autobiographical novel describing Kerouac's travels with Neal Cassady. He also wrote The Dharma Bums
, which details his adventures with fellow writer Gary Snyder.
Interesting note: For a major figure of literature in the English language, Kerouac came to the language rather late: he was raised in a French-speaking (or rather, Joual
-speaking) household, didn't learn English until he was six, and wasn't confident speaking English until high school. Rather impressive, eh? He also wrote a few short stories in his native tongue, which have received increased attention since it was discovered that Kerouac had originally planned to write On the Road
in French and actually produced an abortive manuscript of it before producing the famous version.
"Home I'll Never Be" and "On The Road" were both adapted to song by Tom Waits
on his album Orphans, Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards
Jack Kerouac provides examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Kerouac died at the age of 47 due to decades of alcoholism.
- Author Avatar: Pretty much every protagonist in everything Kerouac ever published. Sal Paradise from On the Road is Kerouac. Kerouac uses avatars in virtually all of his novels, although for legal reasons, the names are changed from book to book. As a result, in The Dharma Bums, Kerouac is named Ray Smith, and in The Subterraneans, he is named Leo Percepied. Virtually every other character is these books is a thinly-disguised avatar of one of Kerouac's friends or some prominent Beat Generation figure as well.
- Red Scare: Kerouac's relationship with the other Beat writers was strained by his outspoken and fervent anti-communism (and general all-around drunken paranoia)- during a meeting with Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac derisively referred to Ginsberg as a "communist faggot", and at least once accused Ginsberg of being a Soviet agent sent to manipulate him. (Kurt Vonnegut related a similar story about meeting Kerouac in his "autobiographical collage," Palm Sunday.) Revealingly, Kerouac watched Joseph McCarthy's televised hearings while smoking marijuana and cheering passionately for the anti-Communist Senator.