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Door Wide Open

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  665 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
On a blind date in Greenwich Village set up by Allen Ginsberg, Joyce Johnson (then Joyce Glassman) met Jack Kerouac in January 1957, nine months before he became famous overnight with the publication of On the Road. She was an adventurous, independent-minded twenty-one-year-old; Kerouac was already running on empty at thirty-five. This unique book, containing the many lett ...more
Hardcover, 182 pages
Published June 5th 2000 by Viking Adult (first published 2000)
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Apr 05, 2012 Belinda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
I picked this book up at my library recently, once again on my random travels through the biography section (though there is much there that I take umbrage at, lol...) I do like that I find everything from soup to nuts in my local library's bio section but woof--after working at a bookstore for 12 years it can be hard to see things categorized weirdly. However, in this case it worked in my favor. I adore Jack Kerouac--as teen and college student, I was of course obsessed with the Beats in genera ...more
Mia Brown
Jul 28, 2010 Mia Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is NOT by Kerouac, it is by Joyce Johnson and is a must read for anyone even remotely interested in the Beat Generation/Beat writers. Johnson dated Kerouac for a brief time and was right in the middle of everything Beat in NY during the 50's. A great resource and story.
Jun 05, 2016 Diana rated it really liked it
This was a sweet book, tender and sad.
Sep 25, 2010 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, autobiography
I read this at the same time as I read Subterraneans, a novel by Kerouac of an obsessive sexual relationship with someone other than Joyce Johnson. Since she is the editor and compiler of this collection of letters, it is interesting to see her point of view on the beat generation's take on sexual espression and artistry, as well as the empowerment of women to make their own sexual choices. Even though taken from Kerouac's point of view and being an examination of his obsession, the woman in Ker ...more
Door Wide Open is a fairly standard "letters" book. It should only be read after reading Joyce Johnson's Minor Characters.

Both books tell the same story...but at the time of writing Minor Characters Joyce Johnson didn't have permission to use the letters in Door Wide Open.

Door Wide Open fills in the gaps of the story from Minor Chacters and this is its strength. However, it would not have been as enjoyable reading the other way around.

It is an enjoyable "letters" book, but I wouldn't call it a
Apr 04, 2008 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've had this book for years but never could get into it. Finally picked it back up when I hadn't been able to get to the library in a while. I was pleased that discover that Joyce Johnson provides some commentary between letters about what was going on in their lives. It is a bit cringe-worthy sometimes what a lovesick girl she seems compared to Kerouac's feelings. But I think it would take courage (or a hefty paycheck, maybe) to expose those letters to public scrutiny when you were the one mor ...more
Aug 06, 2008 Rosie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always thought Kerouac was a shit and this verifies it. Shows him to be insecure, juvenile & manipulative as well, and surprise surprise!! a Momma's Boy! Joyce was young & naive and useful to him. Couldn't have been a more mismatched pair. Enjoyable reading if you're interested in them & their times.
Jul 05, 2015 Greg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beat-poets
Interesting (to me) collection of letters from Joyce Johnson to Jack Kerouac, and from Kerouac to Johnson, during their love affair. They were "together" (at least as much as anyone could have been with Kerouac) from just before On the Road was published until about a year later. A short time, but, obviously, if you know Kerouac, a colossal one for him and American literature.

The letters are mostly matter of fact (there are several cat updates) but their blandness masks a lot of longing, pain, a
I found this quite by accident when looking for more on Jack Kerouac. I was a wee bit skeptical when I first got it, as I am always leery of folks who write about others after they have left this realm. When I factor in romance, sex, emotions, greed, etc, I read with a very skeptical eye indeed.

I am pleased to report that Joyce Johnson, once friend and lover of Kerouac, actually offers a nice evaluation of her time with him as well as a mature assessment of both of their strengths and weaknesses
Apr 18, 2008 Craven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I usually don't give post or review books that I haven't finished, because it doesn't seem fair to give something a bad review if I haven't read the entire thing and I usually only quit a book if it sucks. (So no, I don't like everything just the stuff I end up posting.) However, with this one I figured it'd be OK, because I actually liked it a bit, but after a while I felt like I got the point. But yeah, this is a series of letters between Jack Kerouac and his young lover Joyce Johnson. It's an ...more
Jeremy Standifird
Jul 19, 2016 Jeremy Standifird rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For anyone interested in visiting the Beat Generation from the point of view of a true "Minor Character," this should be a requirement. We see two sides of Kerouac in these letters, yet we also see his wholeness in constant paradox - that is, his chaotic mood-swings and thirst for isolation and his inability to handle ever being truly alone. We also read, in Kerouac's own words, his yearning for fame (movies, plays, ) and his eventual resentment toward it. There is a Freudian aspect to Jack bath ...more
Maol Mhuire O'Duinnin
I read this book several years ago and found it an intimate and intriguing look into Kerouac's letter writing. I also learned about Joyce Johnson for the first time. I distinctly recall, however, Johnson denouncing anyone's claims or any evidence that Kerouac was at all homosexual. I'm not really sure why she felt a need to do this, and in the face of overwhelming evidence from folks like Kerouac's close friend, poet Allen Ginsberg, I don't believe Johnson's argument holds up. Of course Kerouac ...more
Emma Holtrust
Apr 30, 2014 Emma Holtrust rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
Everyone knows I have a weakspot for Jack Kerouac - I feel like I'm supposed to dislike him due to his description of women in his books, but I just can't. His writing is too pure and emotional.
I enjoyed this book, but I also one big issues with it : Joyce seems to constantly romanticise Jack's addiction issues - not only when she was young and dating him but also in the pieces of text she put in between. These letters make it so clear that Jack had a real issue and it's heartbreaking to read.
This book of letters between Kerouac and Joyce Johnson was really enjoyable for the first half. It was interesting to learn the inside scoop on the Beat world. About halfway through it was getting a little slow. Maybe because it seemed repetitive? Maybe the allure had worn off? It was still a good read overall. As a reader, I wanted Joyce to move on from Jack, but could also see exactly why it was so hard for her to do that. I felt bad for her as he was calling her to visit him on his travels in ...more
So, so, so boring. I had to read it for my book club. To be fair, I'm not at all into the beatnicks or one of their love affairs. Which really wasn't a love affair. It was pretty one-sided. *It made me sad though. It reminded me of what I thought at the time was a love affair of my life (of whom I was to be with in marriage for the rest of my life), but only ended on my side of being in love with the most wrong individual. So, I re-felt pain while reading this book. I felt sorry for Joyce. I kne ...more
Jazzy Lemon
Jan 21, 2014 Jazzy Lemon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beat love affair, indeed! Young aspiring writer Joyce Johnson always left the door of her New York apartment open for her lover, Jack Kerouac. But Jack was an untethered soul. His book On the Road had just been published and he travelled from New York to California, Mexico, Florida and back whilst he furiously typed more manuscripts. He wrote prolifically to all his friends and Joyce was no exception. An honest portrayal of a young love story in the middle of beatdom with reminisces and reflec ...more
Aaron Novak
Feb 09, 2014 Aaron Novak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the history of the Beat Movement.
I was expecting this to be more academic, and less enjoyable, than it was - a fun and insightful read for those interested in the history of the Beats. Joyce Johnson, Kerouac's main girlfriend in those all-important years of 1957 and 1958, sheds a lot of a light, from a very personal perspecive, on how Kerouac dealt with his long elusive commercial success with the eventual publication of On The Road. Johnson seemlessly blends in her own commentary with their mutual correspondance providing impo ...more
Jun 07, 2016 Chrissie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Joyce Johnson is an opportunist who entirely exaggerates her relationship with Kerouac. It's a shame that she's been able to parlay her exaggerations into a career. But most great writers like Kerouac have people write about them posthumously. I wish Kerouac had lived long enough and sanely enough to be here to disavow Johnson's tall tales and her taking advantage of a dead man's earthly absence.

Thankfully, Johnson is not considered much more than a sideshow in Kerouac's legacy. There are far be
Nov 13, 2008 M— rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
Full of bitter, desperate, delusional people. If you are a fan of Kerouac or of this time in history, this book is a must read. As however for me, the only part I enjoyed was this brief poem once scribbled on a scrap of paper:

Dear Joyce

Jack (Kerouac)
(New York City)
(early January 1958)

(p. 116, ISBN 0670890405)

Cori R.
Jun 24, 2013 Cori R. rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While entertaining as a every-once-in-awhile or read-in-the-bath book, I was mostly underwhelmed by the relationship between Johnson and Kerouac. As the book wore on and Elise Cohen was mentioned in passing — eventually stating that Cohen had committed suicide — I became more interested in Cohen than I ever was in Kerouac's publishing struggles and bad attitude or Johnson's attempts to quell Kerouac's unhappiness.
Taylor Church
Apr 16, 2014 Taylor Church rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ahhh I am falling in love with the voice and humorous prose of Miss Johnson. This book was short and splendid to no end. I have read several books in the past that display exchanges of letters over the years, but none so beautiful. This book so appropriately adds commentary by the writer, recipient, and jilted lover herself. Mid-read I abandoned any goals I had of starting some other book and went on Amazon to procure another memoir by my favorite Joycey.
Dec 17, 2013 Kylie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm so glad I found this book. I read minor characters by her as well, but it left me wanting more (and honestly wasn't about what I thought it was, but still enjoyed it). It seems oddly familiar, both her perspective and his. I suppose all of us have been in a relationship that was similar to this in some way. It did show the duality of Jack that I always suspected so I was glad I didn't pull that out of nowhere. I've always been fascinated with letters and this is a great collection of them.
Fluffy Singler
Aug 20, 2012 Fluffy Singler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beat, biography, feminist
Everyone knows by now about Jack Kerouac and his inability to commit to any woman except his mother. What is particularly interesting about this book is the way that Joyce Johnson's own authorial voice emerges through these letters. You also learn a bit about Elise Cowen, another woman writer of the Beat Generation who has been gaining more attention in the past 15 years or so.
May 11, 2008 Ronnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: matt.
Recommended to Ronnie by: wes.
this is the first thing i ever read having to do with kerouac. the structure and language of their letters was different than most and interested me immediatly and i soon picked up 'on the road' and so on.
ماهر Battuti
كتاب جميل يصف علاقة المؤلفة بأحد أقطاب الجيل الأمريكى الذى يُطلق عليه "الجيل المضروب" وهى ترجمتى لاصطلاح The Beat Generation .
وهو الكاتب جاك كرواك صاحب رواية "فى الطريق "
والكتاب يوفر معلومات قيمة عن الجو الذى عاش فيه الكاتب ، ومع أصدقائه من ذلك الجيل مثل الشاعر جنزبرج وكذلك بوروز وغيرهما
Julie Akeman
Dec 29, 2015 Julie Akeman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this some time ago and first thing I though was, was Jack Kerouac BiPolar? I read other books of those living with bipolar disorder and it just sounded like it the way he shifted around so much. This is the only one I have read but really want to read his other stuff.
May 25, 2013 Fon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Got this book in mint condition from a used bookshop in Chiangmai. Got to learn more about Kerouac and his life prior to his fame.
Oct 05, 2010 McNeil marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
just picked up a book of letters between Kerouac and Ginsberg, and it makes for fascinating reading. There's something about these beat guys that just enthralls me. this book looks great, too.
Matt Day
May 11, 2008 Matt Day rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked it, what can I say? but I'm always weirded out when I read a book of letters between two people. letters that were really meant for only those two peoples eyes? make sense?
Gary Bleasdale
Mar 23, 2016 Gary Bleasdale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tender and true
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Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac on March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts. Jack Kerouac's writing career began in the 1940s, but didn't meet with commercial success until 1957, when On the Road was published. The book became an American classic that defined the Beat Generation. Kerouac died on October 21, 1969, from an abdominal hemorrhage, at age 47.

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“I became intent on saving him through showing him that he was loved.” 39 likes
“I was always aware that Jack loved women not only for their bodies but for the stories that came into being as they interacted with him--they were part of his "road," the infinite range of experience that always had to remain open to fuel his work.” 7 likes
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