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Jack's Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  533 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Here, in what has become a classic of its kind since its publication in 1978, is the fascinating story of Jack Kerouac, "King of the Beats" and American literary legend, recorded through the voices of his friends and lovers. Authors Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee retraced Kerouac's life at home and on the road and talked with the prophets, musicians, poets, socialites, and ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 6th 2005 by Da Capo Press (first published 1978)
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M. Mangan
Jan 04, 2012 M. Mangan rated it it was amazing
I was not a Kerouac fan per se, but I was able to read this book one summer as part of my job for the Park Service in his hometown of Lowell. It was one of the best biographies that I ever read. I was completely engrossed.

One of my favorite aspects was that they would interview several people for the same incident, and let you hear from each of them separately--rather than mashing it into a whole. It was very Rashomon-esque. And it was so interesting to see how the individual's perspectives affe
Manick Govinda
May 30, 2012 Manick Govinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my bible when I was 16-17yrs old. How I dreamed of being a beat, and how I copied such style in my diary entries of the time. I give it high marks purely for nostalgia.
Apr 26, 2014 Rachel rated it it was amazing
ABSOLUTELY FASCINATING. I love biographies, though I don't read them very often. Probably the most interesting book I've ever read is "Natasha," a biography of Natalie Wood. This one is a very, very close second.

My favorite part of biographies is reading the quotes/stories from the people who knew the person the biography is about. This being an "oral biography" meant that the majority of it IS quotes from these people, most of them fascinating and famous people in their own right (like Allen G
Blake Nelson
Feb 13, 2013 Blake Nelson rated it it was amazing
I never seem to get tired of reading about the Beat Generation. Maybe because it's a time in American culture and history that reminds me so much of right now. (super social conservatism, rampant conformism among the young, irrational fear of non-existent enemies).

To add to stuff I already knew is a lot of dirt, sexual mostly. So if you're wondering who slept with who among the beats, the answer is: "everyone".

Chris Meger
Jun 02, 2008 Chris Meger rated it really liked it
I hate what the world did to Kerouac. But after reading this book, at least I understand it better.
Jay C
Jul 04, 2011 Jay C rated it really liked it
Great oral biography of a great writer (& tragic figure in literature). Helps if you already have a background in Kerouac and have read most of his books. Might not make a lot of sense otherwise.
Sep 04, 2013 Allan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. The personal reflections of the actual participants of Kerouac's stories, make this book a unique and valueable resource. Would recommend it to any Kerouac fan.
Jul 07, 2012 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(5.30.12) Merrill and I took a trip to Portland and spent Monday morning in Powell's. Nordstrom bought her $600 of fashion books. I bought this plus 'Desolation Angels' and 'The Practice of the Wild'.

(7.7.12) I read this over the last couple of weeks. It has some fascinating stuff in it, obviously all the more fascinating when it relates to the novels you've read recently. Also his relationship with his mother will delight Freudians everywhere. There's maybe too much on Neil Cassady, but the stu
As far as the biographical content of this book is concerned the interview form appears a bit too rough. This is not so much a proper biography as it is raw material from which future biographers can plunder quotes for centuries to come. What is great about this book is that it explains and shows things you won't find anywhere else: the effect Neal Cassady had on people, the atmosphere at the Burroughs/Volmerr farm in Texas, the way various people responded to each other (positively and negative ...more
Apr 17, 2016 Jay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was younger Jack Kerouac turned me on to reading. And when I was older Barry Gifford turned me on to writing. So what happens when I come across Giffords oral biography of Jack Kerouac?
Double the pleasure. Double the fun.
I 19m glad a lot of my college English professors hated Kerouac. They talked his ideas down. They disrespected his writing style. They thought he was a phony as a person. So, man, that motivated me more than ever to read 1COn the Road, 1D and 1CThe Dharma Bums, 1D and 1CV
Chuck O'Connor
Jan 25, 2015 Chuck O'Connor rated it really liked it
Kerouac was my bridge from comic books to literature, when I was a teenager so he will always hold a nostalgic place for me. This book is a great presentation of his history. It is very sad. Another bright talent squandered by alcoholism. I came away sadder about Jack's slow-motion suicide now that I am about the same age as he was when he died.
May 28, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it
beautiful book about a great poet (the term writer is not fitting) told in the words of people who not just knew him but loved him and hated him, lived and died with him. must read if you're a true fan of kerouac, like i am.
Taylor Church
Mar 19, 2015 Taylor Church rated it really liked it
I have read several other Kerouac biographies, but this one was done in such a unique and wonderful way. The truth behind beat stories and mythological tales were revealed in their gritty reality and renewed grandeur. Reading this book makes you want to read all of the contemporary "beat literature" by all of jack's friends who were writers and poets. But most of all reading these pages make you want to go and read every book, every essay, and every article that Mr. Kerouac managed to publish in ...more
Jack Goodstein
Keroac's friends, lovers and acquaintances wax eloquently at times not very coherently about the man they thought they knew. Hopefully from the mass of testimony some sort of truth emerges.
Michael Mayer
Oct 24, 2007 Michael Mayer rated it it was amazing
A most excellent book with tons of interviews with people who knew Kerouac intimately. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy Kerouac's work and other "beat" writers.
Ronald Gregor
May 27, 2013 Ronald Gregor rated it really liked it
One of the best bios about Kerouac.
Jun 30, 2015 Matthew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love reading tragedy and Kerouac's life is such a grand tragedy and to read about that tragedy from the people who knew and love him only makes that tragedy so much more grand.

Jack's Book offers great insight of how Kerouac touched the lives of so many people over the course of his brief life. I really enjoyed reading the words offered by Luanne Henderson mostly because of how Kerouac vilified her in On the Road that it was nice to hear her voice. Jack's Book is definitely tailored to the sea
Linda Blinova
Jan 06, 2015 Linda Blinova rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ничего нового (хотя вообще сомнительно, что из биографий Керуака можно узнать что-то принципиально новое), но интересно и увлекательно. Автор обрастает тусовкой, персонажи его книг оживают и говорят своими голосами о нём. Получается, они меняются с автором местами. И наблюдать этот "зеркальный" эффект мне, например, крайне любопытно. Кроме того, хорошо для проработки контекста, потому что с программы "Керуак" переключаешься на программу "Керуак и ...", что расширяет, конечно же, горизонты.
Carlos Escobedo
Aug 12, 2016 Carlos Escobedo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a sad life! success was the worst thing that could have happened to him. his tragic life story is very compelling and puzzling. I really enjoyed the oral history style of this book
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Barry Gifford is an American author, poet, and screenwriter known for his distinctive mix of American landscapes and film noir- and Beat Generation-influenced literary madness.

He is described by Patrick Beach as being "like if John Updike had an evil twin that grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and wrote funny..."He is best known for his series of novels about Sailor and Lula, two sex-driven,
More about Barry Gifford...

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