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Kerouac: A Biography

4.07  ·  Rating Details ·  1,190 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Now that Kerouac's major novel, On the Road is accepted as an American classic, academic critics are slowly beginning to catch up with his experimental literary methods and examine the dozen books comprising what he called 'the legend of Duluoz.' Nearly all of his books have been in print internationally since his death in 1969, and his writing has been discovered and enjo ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published October 15th 1994 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1973)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,364)
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Paul Bryant
May 29, 2012 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: ex-hitch hikers
This is strange and I don't understand it. The received idea is that once On The Road beat-fame sluiced all over Kerouac's life he couldn't take it and he became a misanthropic drunk and eventually a dead beat, at the age of 47, cursing everything and everyone but especially the hippies he had so inspired. Most of that is true, but this 12 year burn-out goes like this :

The Dharma Bums (1958)
Lonesome Traveler, short story collection (1960)
Big Sur (1962)
Desolation Angels (1965)
Satori in Paris
Jul 04, 2008 Serenity rated it really liked it
The definitive biography of Jack Kerouac. Helps dispell the myth of Kerouac as a total free spirit and liberated beatnik who helped pave the way for the sixties. Rather, it shows him to be the extremely conflicted man that he was, caught between two opposing value systems that he could not reconcile within himself and that eventually destroyed him, leaving him to retreat into isolation, alcoholism, and closed-mindedness at the end of his unfortunately short life.
I recommend paring this reading
Ronald Wise
Jul 31, 2011 Ronald Wise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think I've ever ready anything by Kerouac, but this was the second time I've read this biography from my personal library. Coincidentally I read it this time when the 50th anniversary of the publishing of his On the Road was being noted in the media, and so I heard a lot of supplemental biographical information on National Public Radio. It also meant more to me this time because I've had close personal encounters with individuals in the last five years who were selfish and/or self-destru ...more
Jan 15, 2014 Steven rated it it was amazing
Excellent, intimate look at Kerouac's adult life. Nicosia's biography is richer, with more information and analysis of each of Kerouac's books. Where Charters succeeds is in giving us a vivid portrait of the tragedy of Jack Kerouac's life - a masterful, groundbreaking writer whose influence can still be felt, and the deeply flawed man. Jack Kerouac was Beat in both senses of the word. He was beaten down, crushed by his shyness and self doubts, as well as the pressures of being a celebrity. He wa ...more
Sep 14, 2008 Laura rated it it was ok

Interesting...don't know how objective it is. Charters is good about putting all the facts in, but manages to excuse a lot of things that, if you were close to Kerouac and his compatriots, were probably not excusable. I enjoyed reading something set in the 1940s and 50s that wasn't Donna Reed-esque...reinforces that all the societal problems we have today were around, the mainstream and media just ignored them.
Anna Ligtenberg
Oct 10, 2013 Anna Ligtenberg rated it really liked it
I've always reviewed books for semi-business-like reasons, but the ones I really love, own? Never. THAT felt a bit like... these are my friends, let's talk about strangers! Suddenly, I'd like to review my way through my own shelves before I die... and since I'm accident prone and living alone for the first time in eons... it seems like death by tripping down the stairs on the ragged hem of a pair of jeans... seems like that could be right around the corner, some days. Yep... Bob Dylan and Jack K ...more
Tyson Call
Sep 11, 2015 Tyson Call rated it it was amazing
I had always read that Kerouac was troubled, leading a tumultuous life before finally dying from the effects of severe alcohol abuse. This was always the summary—his end glossed over like it was expected of any hedonistic deviant. This bothered me, as after reading On the Road a few times I had an inkling that the man was actually sweet and mostly harmless, despite the reputation that he obtained through the counter-culture content and themes of his books. I wondered why a writer who was as belo ...more
Jason Evans
Nov 13, 2007 Jason Evans rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all kerouac fans
Shelves: biography
I realize you think you know all about Jack's life because that is what he mainly writes about, right? Not so fast my friend! Ann takes you behind the scenes, the real stories and Jack's maniacal writing sessions, fast and frenzied. Good read for Kerouac fans.
Bryan Duffy
Sep 28, 2007 Bryan Duffy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Kerouac fans
Will tell you every little secret you did and didnt want to know about Kerouac. Warning, you might not like the guys persona after reading it. Youll respect him more as a writer...but youll find some things about him that you may not have found in his novels.

Oct 02, 2008 Jeff rated it really liked it
My favorite bio on Dulouse! Charter gets her info right as far as I know, and she did get to work with him before he died. And I like Charter's style...lays it down, very readable.
Don Clark jr
Jun 26, 2013 Don Clark jr rated it it was amazing
this is a Kerouac biography that I revisit at least once a year. Ann Charters gives me a glimpse into a world I can only wish I had been born early enough to witness firsthand.
Dec 02, 2007 Grant rated it really liked it
a good critical work about kerouac's life and writing. gets under the public and mythic persona that has developed.
Nov 14, 2007 Carl rated it really liked it
a great bio that cuts out all the alcholic fat and teenage awe. an honest and frank look into the legend of duluoz.
Joseph Cochran
Jan 13, 2013 Joseph Cochran rated it it was amazing
Definitive Biography of one of the greatest writers of all time. Kudos to Charters on the Research
Harriett Milnes
Aug 25, 2013 Harriett Milnes rated it liked it
Shelves: 3-star-books
enjoyable, easy to read, sad at the end.
Feb 03, 2011 Marley rated it it was amazing
One of the great bios I've read.
Jul 27, 2016 Dermot rated it it was amazing
Sometimes I think that it takes a woman to write an honest biography, especially of a man, and I think that is exactly what Charters has done here. She sees through the mythology that has sprung up around Kerouac since his untimely death in 1969.

In some ways, this is a tale of men behaving badly, even shockingly at times. But it also a fascinating insight into a sub culture of the post war years and a country coming to terms with itself after t
Mar 03, 2011 Greg rated it liked it
Shelves: beat-poets
I was pretty disappointed with Charters' biography of Kerouac. She's an acknowledged expert on the Beats, and certainly knew them about as well as anyone. Yet somehow this biography is incredibly dry. She never looks beyond the surface of what he said or did, just relates the facts as she knows them. There's little insight into motivations. She'll say he did something, but won't say if he did it on purpose, by accident, because he got paid to do it, or because he was drunk. It just left me wanti ...more
Apr 04, 2015 James rated it really liked it
Charters did a nice job of discussing his early work and the success he eventually found with On the Road, but I felt like her recounting of how his life spiraled downhill wasn't fleshed out enough.

Ultimately, Jack is presented as someone who desperately wanted to be a hero, but found that it came with consequences he couldn't handle. That message of the book was conveyed effectively and heart-wrenchingly.
Jan 14, 2008 Scott rated it really liked it
A thought out, intimate biography that reads like a narrative. charters seems to have done her homework compiling the life of a self destructive-alcoholic-zen loony-mommma's boy, who of course, captured the spirit of america in his writings.
read this book if you love kerouac's books, because if you love his books than you love his life. i warn you, though, its damn depressing, and whoever your ideal jack kerouac is, be prepeared for the real one to fall short.
Tuttavad lood veel kord, aga ikka oli huvitav lugeda, vaene kurb ja pahur ja depressioonis ja millelegi lootev Kerouac on mu kangelane. Huvitav ka sellepärast, et nyyd tegeles nende mytologiseerimisega keegi teine ja väga mõistlikult.
Thom Kahler
May 06, 2013 Thom Kahler rated it really liked it
Well done--like a novel in its narrative--by an ex-love of Kerouac's.
Sep 21, 2008 Nathan rated it it was ok
Good for a biography, but still a biography.
Oct 18, 2009 Karen is currently reading it
More English paper research...
Jess Kogel
Sep 09, 2012 Jess Kogel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: beat-generation

Another get one on Kerouac...
Nov 19, 2010 Christian is currently reading it
I'm finding out how gay the beat generation writers really were.
Feb 11, 2012 Karolina rated it liked it
I would have given it more stars, if I hadn't read "Memory Babe". If you're looking for a brief overview of Kerouac's life, Charter's book will suit you just fine. If you're really interested in the beat generation, Kerouac and his work get the biography written by Nicosia.
Ken Jun
Ken Jun rated it it was ok
Sep 25, 2016
Andrew Smith
Andrew Smith marked it as to-read
Sep 24, 2016
Stephen marked it as to-read
Sep 24, 2016
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“His optimistic dream of the great American adventure was what made his writing alive, his belief in the essential joyousness of following his own emotions and being excited by the promise of life.” 0 likes
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