kerouac the man


Kerouac the writer is of course inseparable from the life of Kerouac the man. In brief form it goes like this: he was born in Lowell, Massachusetts of French-Canadian parents in 1922, moved 11 times before he was 17, was addicted to books and imaginary play, stayed up all night in high school talking about poetry and ideas with one group of friends, stayed up drinking with a different group, learned to love night and rain, longed to marry a local girl whose father promised to get him a brakeman’s job on the Boston and Maine Railroad, parlayed a talent for football into a scholarship to Columbia, dropped out of college after ten minutes, made a couple of Atlantic crossings as a merchant seaman at the onset of the Second World War, returned to college for a further ten minutes, and thereafter divided his time for a number of years between a quietly disciplined writing life at home in Queens with his widowed mother and occasional forays into Manhattan for too much drink and talk with a circle of brilliant, reckless and variously talented friends who provide a couple of hundred pages of frantically complex narrative in any complete Life of Kerouac the writer and man.

more from Thomas Powers at the LRB here.