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The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  265 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
A groundbreaking portrait of Kerouac as a young artist—from the award-winning author of Minor Characters

In The Voice is All, Joyce Johnson, author of her classic memoir, Door Wide Open, about her relationship with Jack Kerouac, brilliantly peels away layers of the Kerouac legend to show how, caught between two cultures and two languages, he forged a voice to contain his du
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published 2012 by Viking
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Sep 20, 2013 Joseph rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac by Joyce Johnson is a comprehensive biography of Jack Kerouac. Johnson's articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York, The Washington Post, and Vanity Fair. Johnson for a time was Kerouac's girlfriend and a member of the inner circle of the beat movement.

I like Kerouac's work. I really do, but I didn't always. Many years ago I found myself at Big Sur and felt compelled to run to the closest bookstore and buy a copy of Big Su
James Murphy
Oct 26, 2012 James Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been a long time since I read biographical material about Kerouac. Joyce Johnson's book, The Voice Is All, is an examination by a writer and editor of how Kerouac developed the spontaneous prose style that brought him success as a novelist and poet as well as the spokesman--if reluctant--for what became known as the Beat Generation. I don't agree with those who say of this biography that it adds nothing to the Kerouac we already know. I think it does. I think Johnson writes with a deep unde ...more
Michelle Curie
Jun 21, 2017 Michelle Curie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
"With a sweep of bewilderment I began to live - a man on the earth, his relation to all things, to his fellow man, to his society, and to the universe."

Since reading On the Road for the first time a couple of years ago, I have felt something like natural sympathy towards Jack Kerouac and his peers. The way they seemed to have lived, that free American lifestyle away from today's structures and requirements seemed intriguing and inspiring. When visiting a bookshop the other day and recognising
Nov 18, 2012 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Impressive, enthralling – and probably Kerouac’s last wish.

Just the compilation of this book is astounding. Hunting through all his letters, ceaseless journals, half written manuscripts, and the personal accounts and books of his friends and lovers – is a monumental task. The author Joyce Johnson related in a book reading in Brooklyn that this book took her 4 years to write. Each bit of information was cataloged with copious notes. The painstaking research is so dedicated it seems to be a testam
Paul Jr.
Dec 18, 2012 Paul Jr. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
For all the publicity touting THE VOICE IS ALL as THE book to be the first to use the archive, it sure doesn’t read like it. This is perhaps the laziest piece of work I have ever read in biography period. There is much that is superficial here for she seldom veers from the rudimentary.

Initially, I thought this book had brought a new perspective, but through casual scrutiny, I see that she has merely used Jack’s words through extensive paraphrase thereby crippling his innate authorial brilliance
Dec 05, 2012 Tami rated it liked it
the first 75 pages or so were like "blah blah blah" with joyce putting her own spin on jack's childhood. i mean, yes, she read his papers, but much of what she wrote in this section, to me, seemed completely fabricated. the woman color coded his memories at one point, for God's sake.

but i'm beyond the "blah" now and getting into it...

ok so perhaps he did attach colors to certain memories. ok. but this book was mostly about what the author felt keroac was trying to achieve - based on the man's ow
Liza Wiemer
Revealing, highly researched (but never boring) biography of one of America's most fascinating, iconic novelists.

When Penguin offered me the opportunity to review this biography, I was reluctant. I don't read many biographies, but as a writer, I couldn't resist learning more about Jack Kerouac. And does Joyce Johnson deliver. There are times I was deeply sympathetic toward Jack - the loss of his younger brother Gerard had a huge impact on his life. The death left his mother overprotective toward
Oct 08, 2012 Chrissie rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Skip it - it's not essential.
I saw Joyce Johnson speak about this book recently. I'm not sure she's adding anything essential to the understanding of Jack Kerouac. Most of the anecdotes she mentions are in many of the other biographies written by other people about Kerouac and the passages she chose to read that night were not very interesting. During the Q&A, Johnson did not seem to want to address anything other than superficial issues and when she was asked a question about whether or not Jack was a good lover, she r ...more
Susan Ovans
Mar 22, 2013 Susan Ovans rated it it was ok
I'm kinda torn between two and three stars because I realize how well written and exhaustively researched this book is. I'd say you have to be a real Kerouac fan to want to know how he felt in all circumstances and how those feelings provided material for everything he wrote. Frankly, Scarlet, I just didn't give enough of a damn.
Robin Friedman
Jul 22, 2013 Robin Friedman rated it it was amazing
This book received mixed reviews. I thought it good for the reasons given below.

Joyce Johnson's "The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac" (2012)offers a sympathetic internalized portrayal of Kerouac, the divisions in his personality, and his calling as a writer. Johnson has published three novels, and other works of nonfiction, including the memoir discussed below.

Johnson's life intertwined with Kerouac's. Joyce Glassman (b. 1935) had a relationship with Kerouac which began in 1957,
Jim Cherry
Sep 26, 2012 Jim Cherry rated it it was amazing
In her introduction to “The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac” Joyce Johnson warns against considering her biography of Jack Kerouac a definitive version, but after reading the book I guess I’ll do it for her. If there is such a thing as a definitive biography Johnson’s “The Voice is All” is as close as you can get.

Besides being a writer in her own right, Johnson had an affair with Kerouac just as his breakthrough and now classic “On The Road” brought him national acclaim and fame
Kevin Kizer
Sep 25, 2012 Kevin Kizer rated it liked it
The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac
By Joyce Johnson

In the category of most biographed (trademarked!) author, Jack Kerouac seems to still reign supreme as evidenced by this the 12,653th biography to be published since his death in 1969. One would think that the territory would be well worn. However, this biography is written by Joyce Johnson, who was a steady part of Kerouac’s unsteady life from 1957, when she met Kerouac on a blind date, to his death twelve years later.
Aug 05, 2013 Jodi rated it liked it

“The Voice is All” is Joyce Johnson’s third biography/memoir of Jack Kerouac. Her two previous works are "Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir" and "Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, 1957-1958" which was co-written by Kerouac.

I have to be honest, I hadn’t heard of Jack Kerouac prior to being contacted by Penguin Group with a review opportunity. I love a good biography so decided to give The Voice is All a read. Joyce Johnson has obviously done her homework as displayed in the daunting l
John Theofanis
Feb 15, 2013 John Theofanis rated it it was amazing
Fans of Jack Kerouac will enjoy this in-depth look at his life by Joyce Johnson. Johnson locates Kerouac's efforts to find his own literary voice. She captures the key factors to comprehending the writing style, a voice reminiscent of the improvisational performance of jazz. Kerouac called the voice "sense-thinking" and his style transcends mere thought or logic; Kerouac's sentences move with the rhythm, timing and the rushed, ecstatic outpouring of a John Coltrane saxophone solo.

Johnson's stud
Dec 28, 2012 René rated it really liked it
Well written. My only problem was with the very last couple chapters, in which she suddenly brings in a fairly in-depth discussion of Visions of Cody. I know she had a hand in publishing the complete version of Cody, which probably explains her "favoring" of it a bit--but I don't think its discussion was fully justified here, as its writing was still off in the future of this book's chosen timeline. It made the ending drag a bit for me.

I also think some of the negative reviews here are rather b
Dale Neal
Apr 17, 2013 Dale Neal rated it really liked it
Fascinating look at how Kerouac fumbled around, looking for his trademark "bop prosody" style that made him famous with "On the Road." Kerouac, of course, had a mess for a life, as a full-blown alcoholic by his 20s. It's a tribute to his talent and determination that he was able to write despite his addiction. He's a much underrated writer is Joyce's argument, but unfortunately he was in Yeats' words "a man helpless before the contents of his own mind."
Aug 24, 2013 Julene rated it really liked it
Shelves: about-writing
I listened to this book on books on tape. It is an in depth work from his finally released papers at the NY Library of his life and writing process in the form of a biography. There is an additional brief interview with her at the end and she states her 3 goals, one of which was to focus on his writing process through out his life, and his connection to his Franco American roots and family.
Aug 25, 2012 Todd rated it really liked it
Johnson quickly takes the reins by declaring that she is going to tell the story she wants to and critiques many of her predecessors. Her narration works within the conventional timeline in a way that diverges from the many Kerouac biographies. No one biography will "determine" who Jack Kerouac was, but "The Voice is All" is a fresh, personal window into Kerouac's emotional labyrinth.
Dec 31, 2012 Laura rated it it was ok
Not that well written. Jack is my MAN and this book could have done him better justice. Also as a side note, the women were treated terribly! All of the wives, girlfriends, etc...none were treated well at all...hard to read...
John Behle
Jan 16, 2013 John Behle rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: skip
A must miss. This is a drawn out, inflated, maudlin treatise of what should have been a footnote in a real JK biography. Instead, pick up your old copy of JK's poetry, settle in your favorite chair, savor each hard earned word and look into the man.
Jan 27, 2017 Lisaavery rated it really liked it
Joyce focused more on Jack's literary influences in this book which rounds out other books on him. I didn't want it to end.
Will Dowd
Dec 31, 2016 Will Dowd rated it really liked it
In this intelligent (albeit cropped) biography, Johnson makes the case that Kerouac's dual ethnic identity (he was raised in a French Canadian family in Lowell, Massachusetts) left a torturous yet generative split in his literary imagination.
Jun 16, 2015 Jessica rated it it was ok
Coming from Jack Kerouac's letters, journals, and fiction writings, this book chronicles the first portion of his life, including his motivations, goals, and thoughts.

I listened to the audio for the non-fiction book club I facilitate. It droned on and became quite tedious, despite the fact that Jack Kerouac's life was pretty interesting. Johnson doesn't seem to leave anything out, some portions read like a log of events: he met up with this person and they went to this place where they met this
GK Stritch
Aug 26, 2013 GK Stritch rated it it was amazing
Love Voice, Minor Characters, and Door Wide Open, love the lovely photo of young Joyce. Jack, why couldn't you be happy with ecstasy pie pumpernickel bread and sweet butter with your morning coffee?

“One night in the midst of a rainstorm the two of them sat in a puddle on Broadway pouring ink over each other’s heads as they belted out folk songs.”

Is this what attracts those drawn to the adventures of Jack Kerouac again and again, to that exuberant time of “great, mad” youth?

Joyce Johnson presents
Audra Burwell
Feb 27, 2017 Audra Burwell rated it it was amazing
I've always found Jack Kerouac, one of the most famous of the Beat Poets, to be quite appealing. But no on quite captures the emotional aspect of his life and the silent tragedy he endured like Joyce Johnson. It a very deep and moving account, highlighting all moments of his hectic life.
The Lit Bitch
Aug 23, 2013 The Lit Bitch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The life of novelist and poet Jack Kerouac has been widely documented through a series of biographies over the years since his death in 1969.

So why read yet another biography about we well known author? What makes this one different than all the rest?

The author of the biography, Joyce Johnson, had a romantic affair with Kerouac and focuses primarily on the events leading up to his most well known novel, On the Road. She offers an in-depth, unique knowledge and perspective of Kerouac as a writer.
Jan 21, 2013 Kimberly rated it liked it
Johnson, who had a brief love affair with Kerouac around the time On the Road was published, focuses on Kerouac's struggle to "find his voice" as a writer. This was a refreshing approach, as opposed to the usual biographical style. Because of this emphasis, Johnson's book focuses on Kerouac's family, childhood, first novel and his writing of On the Road. Her discussion of the influence and importance of Kerouac's French-Canadian heritage is particularly fascinating, shedding light on his writing ...more
Nikole Hahn
Aug 31, 2013 Nikole Hahn rated it really liked it
The Voice is All by Joyce Johnson is an in depth exploration of not only Jack Kerouac’s writing, but his life as well. I’m not sure how many of this generation knows Jack. I had never heard of him, and after reading this, not sure I wanted to know so much of him. It touches a lot on his sexuality, his tendency to be attached to his mother, and his writing. The author writes with great love, awe, and candor on Jack Kerouac, a Franco-American. The endorsements say Jack Kerouac was a legend in the ...more
D.R. Haney
This is the eighth biography of Jack Kerouac I've read, and I didn't think I would feel the need and certainly not the desire to ever read another, but I listened to a podcast interview with Joyce Johnson and it sounded as though her book might offer a fresh perspective, and I thought, Oh, what the hell, and bought a copy, which sat on my shelf for a couple of years before I finally read it, and I would say it's my favorite of the eight, since it fleshes out stories that were reduced to an intri ...more
Nov 13, 2012 Mark rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
An interesting work, by the woman who was ultimately responsible for getting Visons of Cody into print, but it is really less of a biography of Kerouac (and there's plenty of those out there to pick from) than it is an outlining of the processes, the life events, and the various changes that Kerouac went through while progressing on the work that created The Town and the City, On the Road, Doctor Sax, and Visions of Cody. Since Kerouac's life was so richly described and may be more or less ascer ...more
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Born Joyce Glassman to a Jewish family in Queens, New York, Joyce was raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, just around the corner from the apartment of William S. Burroughs and Joan Vollmer Burroughs. Allen Ginsberg and Kerouac were frequent visitors to Burroughs' apartment.
At the age of 13, Joyce rebelled against her controlling parents and began hanging out in Washington Square. She matri
More about Joyce Johnson...

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