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The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac
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The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  177 ratings  ·  53 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 September 13th 2012 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2012)
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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
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
Paul Jr.
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
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
Jan 03, 2013 Christopher rated it 1 of 5 stars
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
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
Susan Ovans
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.
Jim Cherry
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
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.
John Theofanis
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
Robin Friedman
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,
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
He tried to reclaim access to his true birthright, Life. But the only access he could manage was through art and he was impaled, Double-crossed. The sense of Life he broke through to in Art was Life avoiding him, by means of the mirage in his consciousness. Therefore, he was destroyed by the sense of Life. This was his existential syllogism, as it were, and a cracking good account of his impalement and his discoveries is given by his friend and letter writing one time, brief, lover.

Now, Joyce J

“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
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
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."
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.
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.
John Behle
Jan 16, 2013 John Behle rated it 1 of 5 stars
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.
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...
Martin Burry
I thought Johnson's book delivered a clear, concise biography of Kerouac from childhood to the writing of Visions Of Cody. The only thing it didn't deliver on was the promise of a complete exploration of Kerouac's French/Canadian heritage. Johnson did an adequate job on this topic, even introducing a few new episodes I'd not known about, but that was it and it felt incomplete throughout her work.

I would recommend this book to anyone newly interested in the life of Jack Kerouac, as Johnson avoid
I first read Kerouac's "On the Road" when I was about 16; it gave me my life-long love of road trips, introduced me to stream of consciousness writing, and opened my young eyes to life beyond my sheltered upbringing. The Voice is All took me back and introduced a Kerouac I had never imagined. Because he was so much older, my image of him was of a tough older writer, however Johnson in the book shows a very young boy to a mid-twenties man experiencing life and writing about it obsessively. Loved ...more
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
Nikole Hahn
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
The Lit Bitch
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.
Mandy's Review:

The interesting thing about biographies is the information you learn about a person that you may or may not have known about. I knew nothing about Jack Kerouac before reading The Voice is All ... and I'm still wondering how much I really know. The other interesting thing about biographies is that the information within is based (usually) on one person's perception of the one they're writing about. Most of the time, I take biographies with a grain of salt instead of as the absolute
GK Stritch
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
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
Paul Gleason
This is a fine read for a Kerouac newbie. Johnson's prose is very readable, and she gets the story of his early years right.

But Johnson's problem is that she offers little to no new revelations about Kerouac's life that those of us who know it well already know. The story is very familiar and borders on gossip - a problem with many biographies of the so-called Beat writers.

The main problem, however, is that Johnson's title is misleading. She doesn't spend enough time discussing the original "voi
Carlos Escobedo
wonderful. It covers the early part of Jack's life, up to about the publication of On the Road in 1957. I know the rest of his life is a painful story but I am curious to know more about it after reading this book. Joyce Johnson is an amazing writer, worthy of writing Jack's story. Jack was far from perfect, but his dedication to the art of writing is inspiring.
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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...
Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, 1957-1958 What Lisa Knew: The Truth and Lies of the Steinberg Case In the Night Cafe Missing Men: A Memoir

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