Jack Kerouac: The Voice of a Generation

Known for his influential work during the beat generation Jack Kerouac is considered one the greats in the literary world. Kerouac is known for Big Sur, On the Road, and many other literary classics. Like many other authors he lived a fantastic life that most can only dream about, but that life was short lived because of Kerouac’s life long struggle with alcohol. Let’s take a look at the life of yet another amazing author.


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Born in Lowell, Massachusetts on March 12th, 1992 to parents Lêo-Alcide Kêroack and Gabrielle-Ange Lêvesque. At a very young age of nine, Kerouac’s older brother died of rheumatic fever. This death had a huge impact on Kerouac and has openly stated that Gerard’s death has followed him his entire life. When Jack was in high school his athletic skills were so excellent that he was offered scholarships from very prestigious schools like Notre Dame, Colombia University, and Boston College. He accepted Colombia’s offer and went on to write sports articles while attending Colombia.

His football career was short lived and once it ended Jack dropped out of Colombia, but Kerouac continued to live in New York. Living on the Upper West Side with his girlfriend and first wife Edie Parker, Jack also became associated with some of the most influential writers of the beat generation. Of course at the time none of these writers were famous, but would eventually be known as the most famous writers of their day. His friends included Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Herbert Huncke.

After dropping out of college Kerouac decided to join the United States Marines. However, this dream was also short lived because Kerouac was honorably released on psychiatric grounds. In 1943 Jack then joined the United States Navy where he worked on and finished his first novel. The novel wasn’t published until 2011, but considered his first nonetheless. A year later Jack Kerouac was arrested during the David Kammerer murder case, he was taken in as a material witness. Jack’s father wouldn’t bail him out so Jack turned towards his girlfriend Edie. Agreeing to marry Edie her parents paid the bail to release Jack from prison.

Jack and Edie eventually had their marriage annulled and Jack moved back to his parents home in Ozone Park in Queens. During his time spent at home Kerouac began working on his first official novel, The Town and the City, which was published in 1950. The novel was published under the name John Kerouac and unfortunately did not sell well.

After his first novel was published Kerouac began working on what would be known as his most influential novel, On the Road. This novel has notorious story behind it, that many are probably more familiar with than his actual novel. Supposedly, Kerouac wrote the infamous novel in 20 days. The author had taped long pieces of paper together to make a 120 foot roll which he could then feed into his typewriter. This allowed Kerouac to write continuously without having to take any breaks. The first draft of On the Road contained no chapters or breaks, it was just one continuous block of writing. In the end Jack had a difficult time getting his novel published, structure was probably one of the biggest issues, but his novel was also considered very explicit. Eventually his experimental beat style won and the novel was published, but not until 1957.

On the Road was an instant success and put Kerouac on the map as one of greatest writers of his generation. Many critics claimed that Kerouac was the voice that defined the beat generation. Unfortunately like many authors before him, Kerouac suffered from crippling alcoholism. On October 20th 1969, Jack was rushed to the hospital after vomiting large amounts of blood. While at the hospital he underwent transfusions because he couldn’t stop throwing up blood. Kerouac was urged to go in for surgery to tie up the burst blood vessels, but this solution was doomed from the start. Jack had an extremely damaged liver from the amounts of alcohol he had consumed over his lifetime, which prevented his body from allowing the blood to clot. On October 21st, 1969 Kerouac died after his operation.

Other works of Jack Kerouac have been published since his death including And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, The Sea is my Brother, Pic, Orpheus Emerged, and The Haunted Life and Other Writings. Like many other famous writers Jack Kerouac was doomed from the start. His adventurous lifestyle led him to create some of the most influential work to exist, but unfortunately led to his demise.