Kerouac and the Outsider – A Puzzle

Jack Kerouac Alley / Double Feature / Flickr

It was Horst who started it. Horst Spandler had been translating the 1971 Kerouac anthology Scattered Poems into German. Along the way he'd been asking others their advice on the meaning of parts of Jack's poems. One such query I received concerned Kerouac's rather fine "Sept. 16, 1961, Poem" (on page 29). Horst wanted to know whether the line which reads "sad today glad … [Read more...]

The Rebirth of the Author in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road

copyright jon3782001 / sxc

"Time stops. He's filling empty space with the substance of our lives, confessions of his bellybottom strain, remembrance of ideas, rehashes of old blowing. He has to blow across bridges and come back and do it with such infinite feeling soul-exploratory for the tune of the moment that everybody knows it's not the tune that counts, but 'IT--' Dean could go no further; he was … [Read more...]

Baby Driver, by Jan Kerouac

Baby Driver - Jan Kerouac / EmptyMirror

While I was being gifted a tiny grocery store carrot cake for my fifteenth birthday in a park in Connecticut, still on the road myself, Jan Kerouac passed away. It was June 5, 1996. I had no idea who Jan Kerouac was, wouldn’t know for another 8 or so years. But I was living a life strikingly similar to hers, in an alternate universe.Kerouac was gifted with looks, talent, … [Read more...]

Jack Kerouac’s Books

Jack Kerouac - On the Road

This is a listing of Jack Kerouac's books, arranged by their date of publication. We've also noted the date(s) when the book was written. If the book covers a particular period of time, we've noted the approximate dates.Book Published Written Time CoveredThe Town and the City 1950 … [Read more...]

Jack Kerouac’s On the Road Manuscript Scroll

Kerouac On the Road Scroll / emdot / Flickr

Jack Kerouac wrote his novel On the Road in a unique fashion - he typed it on a continuous roll of paper, without paragraph breaks, in a marathon writing session in 1951. It is somewhat different than the version which was published in 1957. Finally, the original version has been published.The scroll was auctioned in 2004; Indianapolis Colts owner & Beat Generation … [Read more...]

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road - Beyond Baroque / Flickr

"I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had gotten over a serious illness that I won't bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead." This central character of Kerouac's On the Road, Dean Moriarty, based on Kerouac's friend Neal Cassady, embodies America, its criminal … [Read more...]

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

Kerouac Dharma Bums - VincentX - Flickr

I encountered The Dharma Bums for the first time in college, on a classmate's shelf. She gushed about the book, but I was more interested in her roommate and didn't pay enough attention. Many years later, I finally read it on a lonely road trip through New Hampshire during an unusually cold May. Snow drenched the higher elevations and my camping experience became … [Read more...]

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac

Kerouac - Big Sur

Big Sur is often ignored by critics and Kerouac fans alike. We all want the freedom of On the Road, the craziness of The Dharma Bums — the celebration of the Beat lifestyle. We want young Jack living his American Dream of the road. But Big Sur shows what happens to Kerouac as fame and age taint that dream. "I'm just plumb sick and tired...of the whole nerve-wracking … [Read more...]

Tristessa by Jack Kerouac


Jack Kerouac is primarily lauded for his keen understanding of male friendship. The female characters of On the Road or The Dharma Bums never really achieve the reader's interest the way the males do. But Kerouac is also a writer of exquisitely sad love stories, with complex and fully realized women: The Subterraneans, Maggie Cassidy, and Tristessa. In these tales we find to … [Read more...]

Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac

Visions of Cody by Jack Kerouac

Like a weird, mutated ogre muttering to himself by the roadside, Jack Kerouac's Visions of Cody stands apart. As the author states in his short introduction, "I wanted a vertical metaphysical study of Cody's character and its relationship to the general 'America'." He has done this and more, erecting teetering thousand-foot sculptures of brilliant scrap metal by the macadam … [Read more...]

Vanity of Duluoz by Jack Kerouac

Vanity of Duluoz - erikorama / flikr

When Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education, 1935-46 was written in 1967, an overweight and severely alcoholic Jack Kerouac had only two years to live. Chronicling the years just before his adventures with Neal Cassady, his last complete volume takes Jack from the football fields of high school, to the dangerous seas of World War II, and finally to a New York City brimming … [Read more...]

Dr. Sax by Jack Kerouac

Dr. Sax by Jack Kerouac

Dr. Sax is one of Jack Kerouac's most troubling books for readers, peering behind the curtain of his childhood rather than exploring those later years of Beats and bodhisattvas. Nevertheless, it remains a startling achievement, unique not only among Kerouac's works, but among those books that it seems to mirror. It is primarily a book about growing up, similar to such … [Read more...]