Jean-Louis "Jack" Kerouac (March 12, 1922 October 21, 1969) was an 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?note 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.
Works by Jack Kerouac with their own pages:
- On the Road (1957)
- Pull My Daisy (1959) — short film based on Kerouac's play Beat Generation; Kerouac wrote the screenplay and starred
Other works by Jack Kerouac provide examples of:
- Artistic License Religion: A few major figures in American Buddhism criticized The Dharma Bums for what they felt was Kerouac's superficial understanding of the religion. Kerouac's friends Philip Whalen — a Zen monk — and Gary Snyder — his mentor in Buddhism — disagreed (though the latter had other criticisms of the book.)
- Author Appeal: The Dharma Bums is the product of Kerouac's profound fascination with Buddhism in his early career.
- 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.
- Beige Prose: Most of the books not written in his spontaneous prose style end up being this.
- Darker and Edgier: And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks is a gritty, violent, viceral true crime novel, a stark contrast to his earlier, more romantic literary efforts. In general, this is true of all of his books from Desolation Angels onward.
- Food Porn: It's not unusual to find long, effusive paragraphs of Jack fantasizing about food. Eggs and coffee appear to be his favorite.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Towards Gore Vidal, as expressed by the character Arial Lavalina in The Subterraneans
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Inverted; Almost all of the characters in Kerouac's books were thinly-veiled versions of his friends and acquaintances, many of whom became famous authors and cultural figures in their own right. Reading his books in retrospect becomes a who's-who of major figures in 60s literature.
- Perspective Flip: And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks is written this way, alternating perspectives between the two main characters every chapter.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: The word choice of Kerouac's protagonist-narrators is characteristically...less than sensitive. This is especially true of Jack Duluoz, who features in several of his novels.
- Raised Catholic: All of Kerouac's protagonists are implied to be this in one way or another, just like Kerouac himself.
- Real Dreams Are Weirder: Book of Dreams is more or less just a published dream journal. The result is 200 pages worth of Mind Screw.
- Roman à Clef: The vast majority of Kerouac's novels are simply retellings of things that happened to him and the other Beat writers, with the names changed (and some parts taken out, as the first draft of On the Road reveals). On The Road and Visions of Cody focus on his best friend Neal Cassady, The Dharma Bums is about his adventures with Gary Snyder, And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks (written with William S. Burroughs) was about a mutual friend who murdered a lover, and so forth. It became so well-known that the publisher insisted he use different character names in each book to prevent legal trouble for anyone involved, but they can still be decoded easily.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Owing to a complicated immigration history, Jack's name has been variously spelled Kerouack, Kirouac, and Kerouac. The latter was his preferred spelling, which stuck due to it being the spelling he published under.
- Wall of Text: The result of Kerouac's signature "spontaneous prose" writing style, where he would just write continuously on a scroll of paper without any pause for hours at a time, fueled by coffee and amphetamines. Using this method, he could produce full-length novels in a couple of days at most, but they were virtually unreadable before an editor got a hold of them.
- Write Who You Know: Kerouac insisted that he didn't write novels, he wrote " true life stories simply about what happened to people I knew." This actually caused some problems for his friends, given the sometimes scandalous nature of the stories he told.