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Visions of Gerard

(Duluoz Legend)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  2,893 ratings  ·  146 reviews
"His life...ended when he was nine and the nuns of St. Louis de France Parochial School were at his bedside to take down his dying words because they'd heard his astonishing revelations of heaven delivered in catechism on no more encouragement than it was his turn to speak...."

Unique among Jack Kerouac's novels, Visions of Gerard focuses on the scenes and sensations of chi
Paperback, 130 pages
Published 1991 by Penguin Books (first published 1963)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  2,893 ratings  ·  146 reviews

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Matthew Ted
[27th book of 2021. Artist for this review is American photographer Dorothea Lange—photographs (unless stated otherwise) are not of any of the people in this book, but rather photographs that capture the feeling.]


We have a scan of one of Kerouac's notebooks in which he outlined the chronological order of the Duluoz Legend as he had written it so far. It is incomplete as he went on to write novels later on that fit earlier in the story's order. For example, this novel was published in 1963, and i
Steven Godin
Jun 07, 2020 rated it liked it
I was going to read Visions of Cody (Kerouac's fictional Neal Cassady) but when I realised Visions of Gerald was based upon the short life of his sick brother I thought I'd rather read this. For me I've always found Kerouac books hovering around the three star rating, and its the same here, yet something finds me returning to his writing every now and again regardless. Who knows, maybe one day I'll come across something that really blows me away, and as he did write an awful lot, the odds aren't ...more
robin friedman
Mar 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Kerouac And His Brother

Jack Kerouac's short novel, "Visions of Gerard" tells the story of the death of Kerouac's beloved older brother Gerard (b. 1917) in 1926. Gerard was nine and Jack was four Kerouac (1922 -- 1969) wrote the book in 1956, after "On the Road" had been written but before it was published. "Visions of Gerard" was not published until 1962, when Kerouac had become famous. It received poor reviews.

Set in Lowell, Massachusetts, the novel describes the last year of Gerard's life. It
Robert Hobkirk
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The framework for this novel is the inevitable death of Kerouac's 9 year old, older brother, from an incurable sickness. Although the somber backdrop was a debbie-downer, the style was uplifting. This book is loaded with poetic prose, making it my favorite Kerouac work. It could have been labeled an epoch poem, but poetry doesn't sell, not like novels.Truman Capote said Kerouac's stuff wasn't writing, it was typing. But stick your finger anywhere in this book and read an excerpt and you will rec ...more
Ryan Werner
Sep 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
This beginning novel in the ongoing Duluoz Legend gives a decent glimpse into the brilliance Kerouac would later achieve, but the glimpse arrives unfashionably late.

There’s a style to the prose of Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) where he’s some sort of middle passage, some sort of vessel that is constantly taking and giving. His state of reverie is always emphasizing the prettiness of things, though they may be nothing more than pretty destroyed. This constant observation and absorption doesn’t leave m
Kevin Adams
May 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Quite a different read from an 18-year old to my current 48-year old dad. Such a beautiful book from Jack Kerouac. I can only imagine how tough this was to write. Glad I picked up after all these years.

A perfect way to spend the day.
Geoff Hayton
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
By far Kerouac's most vivid, heartbreaking, and creative book. It's the book where he had to do the most writing, the most composition, the most fabrication. Gerard died when he was four--all of these "visions" had to be generated, as opposed to most of his other work which is more creative memoir. This one actually purports to be a memoir, but couldn't be. After all, what do you remember about being four? Quote something you heard when you were four years old. Kerouac takes the diaphanous shade ...more
I read this at 17 or 18 in one full sitting while in the waiting room at mass general hospital while my grandmother was ailing. I had the day off from school- nothing to do, nowhere to go.

I plugged in, and was completely taken over by the story.

I've revisited it since then, but not even close to the same experience.

You know how that happens? A book will just come into your life, and BLAMMO--- you're all about it.

Then, it slowly fades away into memory....

UNTIL, of course, your Dad unearths it f
Aug 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
Read in Kerouac: Visions of Cody, Visions of Gerard, Big Sur.

This is a story about childhood and brothers. Jack Kerouac wrote this book about his older brother, Gerard, who died at the young age of nine. Jack clearly adored his brother, with Gerard pictured as a happy older brother who was wise beyond his years. It's a heartbreaking story of grief and coping with death and existence.

I enjoyed this work by Kerouac more than some of his other writings. Though the subject matter was different th
Jack Waters
Jul 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
3.5 stars

The first installation of Jack Kerouac’s “Duluoz Legend” offers a brief glimpse into the short life of his older brother, Gerard, whose death at age nine was a deep loss to Jack.

Jack viewed Gerard as a saint, and writes from that perspective throughout while he tries to cope with death, life, existence, meaning, etc, maintaining that what Gerard taught him can also be accessed through the passed-down wisdom from the past.

It’s got the expected Kerouackian flourishes, although it mainly d
Lily Jane
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is Jack Kerouac's most personal work, and my favorite book of him with On The Road and The Dharma Bums. I love the way he describes his big brother Gerard, who passed away too soon. He seemed full of life and energy and reading this book made me understand why Kerouac turned to writing.
"Bless my soul, death is the only decent subject, since it marks the end of illusion and delusion - Death is the other side of the same coin, we call now, Life - The appearance of sweet Gerard's flower face,
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A childhood in the 1920s, a saintly hero brother who disappears too soon, Catholic dreams in a Massachusetts winter, survivor guilt and a family struggling with mourning.

There’s a different kind of Kerouac energy here; introspective, spiritual, angelic and natural. The ghosts of the great wanderers float through these words - William Blake and Walt Whitman, with the touch and feel of sad autumn leaves. There’s that strange melancholy of a dying season, disappearing like smoke from a slow burn bo
Aug 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was my first taste of any of Kerouac’s work and I’m glad I chose this one. I love the almost stream-of-consciousness writing style. It kinda reminds me of my own, and this book really inspired me. I took note of some of my favourite lines:
“Bless my soul, death is the only decent subject, since it marks the end of illusion and delusion - Death is the other side of the same coin, we call now, Life-“
“Pray to be kind, wait to be patient, try to be fine. No use screamin. The Devil was a charming
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: beat-generation
This book seems the most personal of Kerouac's I've read thus far. More of his family, his home and the people closest to him, not some wayward adventure somewhere. Yet it feels like he still held back at the same time, that there was more to say on the subject of his brother. no doubt it effected him in a tremendous way (duh), and the mixture of Buddhist and Catholic beliefs on Kerouac's mind are integral with all of this as well. The book is brief, tragic and sudden. There are no periods (that ...more
Jun 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Another proof that Kerouac is so much more than On the road
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
"A few fall trees reach faint red twigs to it, smoke-smells wraith to twist like ghosts in noses of morning, the saw of Boisvert Lumberyard is heard to whine at a log and whop it, the rumble of junkmen's cart on Beaulieu Street, one little kid cry far off - souls, souls, the sky receives it all." ...more
Oct 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'll apologize beforehand--this is kind of a rambly, not very good review.
I really liked this book. It's my first Kerouac book. During the first half of Visions of Gerard I tried to quit reading it. I wondered why I was reading it and what I would get out of it. It was hard to read and a little depressing. But, I couldn't leave it. I think there was the idea of needing to know how the story ended. I think I also wanted to finish the book for finishing's sake. But , then there was the appeal of K
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: You.
Visions of Gerard is a beautiful but painful read. Kerouac is always, "into" whatever he's writing, but this one just delves so much deeper, and taps into the child-like innocence he meant to convey. The concept of a child lost is never easy, but getting to know the sweet and sensitive Gerard makes you angry for his death. Still, if you make it through this book once, then you'll occasionally want or need to go back and re-read Visions of Gerard, simply to remember that such lovely sweetness cou ...more
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was more of a long poem than a book. I liked it, but there wasn't a lot of varied content. As usual, Kerouac writes a book that no one else could or would write. This book had very sad subject matter, and his metaphysical interpretation that he put forth to explain away the sadness didn't really work on me. It was a big leap he asked me to take. As for now, i couldn't really take it, perhaps later in my life I'll come around to this book.
It also didn't help that read the book during a red-
Brandon Bohl
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
A romantic account of what it is like to grow up in a mill-town in New England. Also a beautiful tribute and imagining of life with his older brother, whom Kerouac was too young to truly know before he passed at such a young age.
Marshall A. Lewis
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Thank goodness it was short. The long moments of Kerouac's philosophically abstract soliloquies outweigh the short moments of beautiful storytelling and poetic commentary Kerouac uses best in other stories. ...more
Nov 20, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit, re-read-lit
Chalk it up to outgrowing your early literary loves.
Jon Shaw
Jun 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Best read if you are a decently fast reader. It is stream of consciousness done supremely well, but if you stop to dwell it can leave you bewildered. I'm beginning to like Kerouac more and more. ...more
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Jack's best book.
the most lyrical yet at once the most restrained.
high sentiment value. if you have no heart, you would still be on the road you dharma bum.
At times, frustrating and annoying due to the writing style and language, but also touching, memorable and a tear-inducing "elegy" for his long lost nine year old elder brother. ...more
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
truly his saddest and most evocative work. his ability to call upon childhood memories and weave them into this fictionalized autobiography is masterful.
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"The most important thing in life is to live for something more than just your own life." ...more
Ostap Bender
Oct 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
This short novel is Kerouac’s touching tribute to his older brother Gerard, who died at the age of nine when Jack was only four. It’s an idealized view of Gerard, who is painted as a saint, instructing his younger brother in lovingkindness to all creatures, and it’s undoubtedly formed from half-memories and family folklore given Jack’s age at the time the events of the novel takes place.

Clearly Gerard was an altruistic youth, but I think the novel is also a reflection of Jack’s own better natur
Apr 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: beat
Visions of Gerard is pretty big departure from Kerouac's usual themes, but still very engaging and more emotionally open than a lot of his work.

The story here revolves around the death of Kerouac's older brother Gerard, who passed away at age nine, while Kerouac was four. It's certainly a fair question how much of the material is actually recalled versus invented for these purposes, but in the end it doesn't matter much to me. The resonance of the story doesn't require every word of it to be li
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Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac 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.


Other books in the series

Duluoz Legend (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings
  • 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

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