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Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings (Duluoz Legend)

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  4,602 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Before Jack Kerouac expressed the spirit of a generation in his 1957 classic, On the Road, he spent years figuring out how he wanted to live and, above all, learning how to write. Atop an Underwood brings together more than sixty previously unpublished works that Kerouac wrote before he was twenty-two, ranging from stories and poems to plays and parts of novels, including ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published 2000 by Penguin Books (first published November 1999)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jun 29, 2013 Reid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kerouac fans
I’d definitely recommend this collection of early writings to Kerouac fans, more than 70 pieces he wrote between the ages of 13-21. As in On the Road, his writing here is more an expression of his philosophical approach to life, his values and his pursuits, rather than traditional story fiction. I quite liked more than a dozen of these, not a bad proportion for a writer’s earliest stuff. Below are a few highlights, but I won’t include many quotes, partly because the best quotes are the highlight ...more
Jerry Oliver
Jan 31, 2012 Jerry Oliver rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful book that reveals the talent that was abundant from the get go for a young Jack Kerouac who understood his calling to be a writer as an adolescent and never waivered his entire life. These pre- On The Road writings are a treasure for any true kerouac fan.
Jul 01, 2007 Sara rated it really liked it
READ THIS. it's fantastic. there are a few stories that i skipped over because they were not very interesting to me (such as a baseball story) but every short story is so beautifully written, and the ideas he presents will really make you think.
Dec 08, 2011 Marley rated it really liked it
Whenver I read Kerouac, I'm re-inspired to carry around a notebook and write whatever I see. Even early Kerouac speaks to me.
Oct 30, 2009 Zach rated it really liked it
best insight into a legend before the world knew how great he was...
Jesper Sorensen
Aug 03, 2011 Jesper Sorensen rated it liked it
Shelves: beat
he knew what he was doing all along
Dec 05, 2011 Mat rated it it was amazing
This book was truly an excellent surprise! Reading this book shows you just how good Jack already was when he wrote these stories (I think he was around 20 when he wrote 'The Sea is My Brother'). My favourites in this collection were the selected excerpts from 'The Sea is My Brother' (which incidentally is not only believed to be Jack's first-ever novel but one which has just been published for the first time last month), a short story on baseball called 'Rookie Nerves' and a short piece he wrot ...more
Mar 26, 2012 Simon rated it really liked it
Atop An Underwood By Jack Kerouac
Edited by Paul Marion "Early Stories and Other
Writings" 1936-1943

I haven't read any great Kerouac in a very long
time indeed, this is by far the best collection
of previously unissued writings by Jack that I
have come across.
Published by penguin I got my copy from City
Lights last year.
This is a carefully edited collection taken from
Paul Marions extensive searching through the
large archive of Jacks writings, he apparently
kept everything he ever wrote almost!
Sep 10, 2013 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone should read this book, or at the very least, glimpse through its pages.
Recommended to Michelle by: Fate
If you're contemplating becoming familiar with Kerouac's work, I urge you to pick up a copy of Atop an Underwood. When I first picked Jack Kerouac's writings off of a Wisconsin library shelf, I turned to two pages. The first in order to read the first sentence of the book (if at least the first paragraph doesn't trigger immediate intrigue, you might as well put that book back where you pulled it from. One more test: I always turn to page 111 when browsing a new novel, book, memoir, what-have-yo ...more
Apr 03, 2016 JT rated it really liked it
Jack Kerouac is a literary icon. His writings, both of poetry & prose should be read by younger generations. He has affected me profusely since jack composed On the Road & Dharma Bums. I consider him a major influence towards my own pursuits in creative writing. I realise that Kerouac is not beloved as he should be. The Beats didn't follow the status quo of what society dictated. Maybe that's why they were considered outsiders, controversial characters. Anyhow, I do hope you read these s ...more
Mar 23, 2010 Bill rated it really liked it
Just as everyone else has said, the writing in here isn't necessarily stellar, but it provides some pretty fascinating insights into the earliest works of an author whom I consider to be incredibly influential. However, in addition to the novelty of being able to read works that weren't really meant to be published, written by an adolescent who would eventually go on to be the voice of an era, the writing in here was reminiscent of all writing that kids do around that age. I found myself relatin ...more
Feb 26, 2015 Jenn rated it liked it
I struggled through this book, but I am not saying that as a negative. This was a collection of early Kerouac leading to his meeting Ginsberg and Burroughs and his ultimate "On the Road" fame. Some of it was meaningless and rambling to me. Some of it was writing genius and words that wove stories and images in my mind that haunted me for days. As I have said in other Kerouac reviews, he is one of my all time favorites and I genuinely enjoy learning more about him. I learned so much from reading ...more
Lauren G
Sep 24, 2007 Lauren G rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone interested in 'early' writing of their favorite writers
i suppose this might be for the more 'hard core,' fans of kerouac or the beats, but actually not really. this is his very early writing, including faux news stories he wrote as a kid, mostly of sports news for one of his dozen 'publications' he worked on in his little bedroom in Lowell, MA. i am fascinated by early writings of my favorite writers and this book was no exception. lots of short stories, snippets and essays, and you can hear the threads of influence from saroyan among other authors. ...more
May 14, 2013 Andrew rated it it was amazing
i really took my time on this one and enjoyed every word. it was fascinating to see his early work and the evolution of kerouac's writing from his younger days into his more well known novels from later in life.


where the road begins
here i am at last with a typewriter
the good jobs
hartford after work*
this i do know
famine for the heart
the romanticist

*i especially enjoyed "hartford after work," like kerouac identifying with brittany, my family hails at one point from hartford (abo
Tim Weakley
I'm always suspicious of posthumous works. Martin edits a collection of very early stories, and creates a marvelous selection of prose, poetry, and commentary. While reading Atop An Underwood it occurred to me that I was enjoying Kerouac's very early works much more than the examples chosen from a time period closer to his period of fame. I kept confirming Kerouac's age when a particular piece had been written. He was so insightful as a young man that I felt floored. He kept this, of course, in ...more
GK Stritch
Feb 20, 2014 GK Stritch rated it it was amazing
LOVED this, delightful, amusing, early, very early writings of Jack Kerouac:

"I am the American temperament . . . I am not Socrates wearing a robe, nor Shakespeare in breeches, but I am a poet in trousers . . . and my hair is combed, parted on the left side . . . I play football and baseball, I go out with dames and I love America. That's who I am."

poem based on "Atop an Underwood"
G. Scott
Dec 29, 2007 G. Scott rated it liked it
I don't want to say I didn't like Kerouac, but I didn't like an anthology of works, specifically designed to showcase his growth, and how he'd developed a lot of characters, themes, and stories, in his early journal writings--at least, not as an introduction to Kerouac, but, in some ways, in general too.
Matt Long
Jul 11, 2014 Matt Long rated it it was amazing
This collection reveals that Kerouac was destined to be the great observer and recorder he became; the seeds of his future obsessions are all on display in these early writings. To gain a clear idea of how Kerouac became the man he was, this is a required read.
Jul 25, 2015 Colvinsb rated it liked it
It was an enjoyable read, but I think it may be more interesting to devoted fans of Kerouac. I have not read enough of his work to appreciate how his style developed over time. I found only a couple of the pieces to really stand out and the rest just seemed mildly interesting.
Sep 09, 2015 Juls rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own
An inspiring look into the mind of a young Kerouac. If you're a Kerouac fan then this book should be in your collection.
Mark McKenny
Dec 28, 2015 Mark McKenny rated it liked it
Much prefer this early stuff to some of the drug stuff. But this collection doesn't really add much. For superfans wanting to complete the collection only.
Dec 22, 2014 Marina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sempre per la serie, Kerouac vende, pubblichiamo ogni cosa che ha scritto, compresa la lista della spesa...
Jan 03, 2016 Katherine rated it it was ok
Holy crap. This is for serious Kerouac devotees only. Like reading someone's cover letters for summer job applications.
Mimoza Derguti
Mimoza Derguti rated it really liked it
Jan 09, 2016
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Dec 07, 2011
Deruz rated it really liked it
Jan 10, 2014
Dalton Hall
Dalton Hall rated it liked it
Jul 14, 2014
Adele Potgieter
Adele Potgieter rated it did not like it
Jun 02, 2015
Daniel Mendoza
Daniel Mendoza rated it liked it
Aug 09, 2016
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Born 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.
Early Life

Famed writer Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Keroua
More about Jack Kerouac...

Other Books in the Series

Duluoz Legend (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • Visions of Gerard
  • Dr. Sax
  • The Town and the City
  • Maggie Cassidy
  • Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education, 1935-46
  • On the Road
  • Visions of Cody
  • The Subterraneans
  • Tristessa
  • The Dharma Bums

Share This Book

“The page is long, blank, and full of truth. When I am through with it, it shall probably be long, full, and empty with words.” 226 likes
“My eyes were glued on life
and they were full of tears.”
More quotes…