"My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them."

Happy birthday Jack Kerouac!


Jack Kerouac (March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969) was an American novelist, journalist, and poet who was a seminal member of the Beat Generation, along with fellow authors and close friends Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. Kerouac's work is particularly recognized for its stream-of-consciousness style, and the wide range of topics addressed. All of his books remain in print, and his best-known works include On the Road and The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and others.



"One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple."

Kerouac's family experienced a deep tragedy when Jack's older brother Gerard died of rheumatic fever. Afterward, the family relied heavily on their Catholic faith, which influenced much of Kerouac's writing His family faced hardships during the Great Depression and his father's print shop was flooded and destroyed, which put the family in a state of poverty.

Kerouac was an avid writer, but he viewed his inherent athletic ability as the way to resolve his family's financial woes. After high school, he accepted a football scholarship from Columbia University. Soon after the start of freshman year, Kerouac suffered a broken leg during one of his first games. He subsequently quit the team and dropped out, eventually joining the military. However, after only 10 days of service, he was discharged for displaying a "schizoid personality".


"All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together."

He returned to New York City and soon met Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, fellow aspiring authors. Kerouac published his first book, The Town and the City in 1950. It was well received, but did not raise his profile. In 1951, Kerouac finished writing On the Road, a loosely autobiographical account of Kerouac's travels across the country. Kerouac's manuscript contained no paragraphs or line breaks and was written on long sheets of tracing paper. His resulting novel is known for its "spontaneous", stream of consciousness style, but in fact, Kerouac planned the work quite thoroughly beforehand. On the Road was rejected because it was quite experimental and too socially progressive. Kerouac later said that the novel was about two Catholic friends searching for God.


Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr


Kerouac, Ginsberg, Gregory Corso

On the Road remains one of the most popular books from the Beat Generation, and is ranked on several lists as one of the most important works of English literature. Kerouac became a literary sensation, but also faced criticism from authors and readers alike. Truman Capote said of his work, "That's not writing; That's typing."


Kerouac on the Beat Generation: "More than mere weariness, it implies the feeling of having been used, of being raw. It involves a sort of nakedness of mind, and ultimately, of soul: a feeling of being reduced to the bedrock of consciousness. In short, it means being undramatically pushed up against the wall of oneself."

Kerouac on "The Steve Allen Plymouth Show"


Kerouac's next book was The Dharma Bums (1558), which described his search for spiritual enlightenment. Although the book documents great strides in his discoveries, he declined to meet with his traveling companion Gary Synder because, as he later said, "...I've become so decadent and drunk and don't give a shit. I'm not a Buddhist anymore." His later works include The Subterraneans (1958), Book of Dreams (1961) Big Sur (1962), and Vanity of Duluoz (1968), the last of which he regarded as his life's work.


William S. Burroughs and Kerouac



"the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars."

Kerouac wrote constantly, but dealt poorly with the fame which followed On the Road. His later years were full of alcohol and drugs, and three short marriages. He had a daughter, Jan Kerouac, although he did not acknowledge her for many years. On October 21, 1969, Kerouac died from an internal hemorrhage from cirrhosis, at the age of 47. Kerouac's work has remained popular, and many of his manuscripts, stories, and poetry have been published posthumously.



William F. Buckley, a drunk Jack Kerouac, the Fug's Ed Sanders and an academic, Lewis Yablonsky, discussing the "Hippie" movement.


Quotes by Jack Kerouac:

"A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world."

"The best teacher is experience and not through someone's distorted point of view"

"Don't use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry."

"I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness."

"Life must be rich and full of loving--it's no good otherwise, no good at all, for anyone."

"I'm writing this book because we're all going to die."

"I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted."

"I'm going to marry my novels and have little short stories for children."

"I feel guilty for being a member of the human race."

"Houses are full of things that gather dust"

"Happy. Just in my swim shorts, barefooted, wild-haired, in the red fire dark, singing, swigging wine, spitting, jumping, running—that's the way to live. All alone and free in the soft sands of the beach by the sigh of the sea out there, with the Ma-Wink fallopian virgin warm stars reflecting on the outer channel fluid belly waters. And if your cans are redhot and you can't hold them in your hands, just use good old railroad gloves, that's all."

"This is the story of America. Everybody's doing what they think they're supposed to do."

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Wednesday, 12 March 2014
Read 4602 times