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Jack Kerouac

Birth and Early Life

  • Jack Kerouac was born Jean Louis Kerouac
  • Birthplace: Lowell, Massachusetts
  • Birth date: March 12, 1922
  • Parents were French-Canadian
  • Kerouac spoke French until age 6
  • When he was 4, his brother Gerard died
    • Inspired writing–Visions of Gerard
  • Kerouac excelled in sports in high school
    • Earned a football scholarship to Columbia
    • When his football career failed, he dropped out
  • Live in NYC
    • Meets the “inner circle beats”
      • Alan Ginsberg (Alvah Goldbook)
      • Neal Cassidy (Cody Pomeray/Dean Moriarty)
      • William Burroughs (N/A in this novel)


  • 1942: Merchant Marines
  • 1943: US Navy: Honorably Discharged (Schizoid Personality)

Literary Career

  • 1950: The Town and the City (first novel)
  • 1951: On the Road
    • Rejected six times for
      • Homosexual behavior
      • Sympathetic treatment of minorities
      • Experimental style of writing
  • 1957 Dharma Bums

Prose Style

  • Spontaneous Prose
    • Influenced by jazz
    • “Length of a breath”
    • Riffing: akin to stream of consciousness
    • Dashes/breaks

Late Life and Death

  • Work declined in popularity
    • Other works getting 10k for reprints, On the Road got 1k
  • Drinking with mother
  • Died of internal bleeding caused by cirrhosis (October 21, 1969)
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