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Book of Sketches

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  642 ratings  ·  54 reviews
In 1951, it was suggested to Jack Kerouac by his friend Ed White that he "sketch in the streets like a painter but with words." In August of the following year, Kerouac began writing down prose poem "sketches" in small notebooks that he kept in the breast pockets of his shirts. For two years he recorded travels, observations, and meditations on art and life as he moved acr ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published April 4th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 2006)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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Steven Godin
Mar 04, 2019 rated it liked it

Montreal night of
suburban streetdiggings
with oil cups, flares
illuminating sandpiles,
as Angel bends
over. Gerald bends over,
leering sadly
in this night—

A great
unequivocal dog
Is all a wolf is

I am Mallarme's

The locomotive comes swimming
thru the newsy city. In
a deep cut, houses on both
banks, full of living lights,
talk of families in eventful
kitchens. This is where I come
riding my Maine white horse.
Dane Cobain
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Words alone can’t describe how beautiful this book is to hold in your hands – it’s a gorgeous, pocket-sized collection of some of Kerouac’s poetry, which is as delightful to read as it is to look at it. Perhaps the coolest aspect of it is the serrated pages – every twenty pages or so, the page size changes slightly, creating a visual effect a bit like a harpsichord that feels incredible when you ruffle the pages.

But enough about the cover and bindings – what you really want to know about is the
Apr 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
A few really good ones, but mostly average. Kerouac wrote these while working on the railroad before On the Road was published. He was a pretty negative guy while writing these sketches, even dissing Ginsberg, Burroughs and Cassady. ...more
I believe it was in David McCullough's brilliant "John Adams" that a father (John Adams?) offers advice to a traveling relative (John Quincy, announcing a trip to Russia?), something like: "Always carry a book of poetry in your pocket and you'll never be alone." That's a great sentiment, and I can imagine traveling with Kerouac's "Book of Sketches" as his observations about everything, literally, are enlightening. A few quotes:
About a place: "Country life with morals, as in North Carolina, is th
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
greetings rucksack hipsters & railway walkers

Jack Kerouac is a personal literary hero for me. he changed how the outside world viewed the Beat Generation. this collection of pomes or sketches is transformative. it really pushes the social and spiritual boundaries of what post-war poetry represents. this is not the most popular form of literature though. there will be dissenters and adversaries. certainly, kerouac was not an angel with his flawed ways. he was authentic, honest till the words bled
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Although I have read Kerouac before, this book gave me a much better appreciation of his skill as a writer and an observer. Sketches includes reprints from his pocket notebooks written from 1952-54. In these notebooks, his friend Ed White reports that "he sketched in the streets like a painter with words". The individual pieces are reprinted exactly, with no editing or revisions so the reader really sees Jack's world exactly as he did on each particular day. Thanks to the library staff for placi ...more
Dec 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely spellbinding. This is not only what poetry should truly be but how the mind actually works. Kerouac sounds less like an artsy writer and more like a down=to-earth journalist. Not only is the sheer scope of this amazing but the way he switches from concrete descriptions of everyday life to more abstract philosophizing on his own role and the nature of reality is flawless. Spontaneous, rough, yet engaging and beautiful in its own way.
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An enjoyable collection of prose poetry from a formative time in Kerouc's life, after The Town and the City but before On the Road was published. Mostly free of the Buddhism that marked his later poetry, but still happy and enlightened. ...more
Feb 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. This left me absolutely speechless.
There are just too many jaw-dropping moments for me to mention.
In fact, even though this book is not a story but a collection of notebook scribblings poured straight onto the page by one of the great literary minds of the 20th century, there is something very magical about this book. Is it the opening description? Hard to say.
Incredibly visual description. As George Condo says in the introduction, this really shows you just how much of a genius Kero
Christopher Newton
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So good to be in Jack's world again. In this one he is about 30, as good a writer as he will ever be (and that's GOOD) , working as a railroad brakeman around the country, and writing down what he sees and thinks about. No story to get in the way. He claims it's not poetry but it is. A vivid picture of the old America of junkyards and hoboes. ...more
Apr 14, 2022 added it
"I, poor French Canadian Ti Jean become
a big sophisticated hipster esthete in
the homosexual arts, I, mutterer to
myself in childhood French, I, Indian0
head, I, Mogloo, I the wild one,
the "child boy," I, Claudius Brutus
McGonigle Mckarroquack, hopper
of freights, Skid Row habituee,
railroad Budhhist, New England Modernist,
20th Century Storywriter, Crum, Krap,
dope, divorcee, hype, type; sitter in win-
dows of life; idiot far from home; no
wood in my stove, no potatoes in my
field, no field; hepcat, howl
Chris Chinchilla
Apr 19, 2014 rated it really liked it

A never-before-published book of poems by Jack Kerouac in a deluxe package In 1952 and 1953 as he wandered around America, Jack Kerouac jotted down spontaneous prose poems, or sketches as he called them, on small notebooks that he kept in his shirt pockets. The poems recount his travels New York, North Carolina, Lowell (Massachusetts, Kerouac s birthplace), San Francisco, Denver, Kansas, Mexico observations, and meditations on art and life. The poems are often strung together so that over the co

Nov 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
A book of sketches is exactly what this is; sketches with words and feelings instead of lines and shades. Only Kerouac could accomplish this so gracefully. And you see these scenes in your head, FEEL them, much more acutely than if you were looking at an actual sketch. Nobody invokes such warmth, feeling, and wondering comfort like Jack Kerouac does. You read him to a beat that is his entirely. The things he wrote about are timeless and that is why he is remembered and his writings have endured. ...more
Dec 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
Lets be honest, these personal notes by Kerouac were meant to be a book. I to keep a small notebook in my pocket where i jot down random musings, but I like Kerouac have no interest in publishing this notebook. The simple yet poignant writings are proof of Kerouac's monstrous memory and his attention to detail, yet in no way formed like a traditional book. As such, it is beautiful poetry, and artfully crafted everyday life. Kerouac has the entertaining ability to make even mowing the lawn seem p ...more
David Rullo
Dec 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Let's face it, this book wasn't meant to be published. It is exactly what it says, sketches Kerouac made. It takes a little while to get into the book and I think a certain amount of time for Kerouac to find his voice but when everything connects you can really sense his feel and genius for writing, whether through a rhythm, a rhyme or simply some observations. There are plenty of times where Kerouac does what he does, describes everything in front of him in minute detail. Would he have expanded ...more
Shant Barsoumian
Mar 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Kerouac captures his stream of consciousness/Jazz/beatnik style in poetry form, a lot if it is just observations but they capture the moment without over thinking things. Lots of pretty insightful stuff too and great one liners at times.
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
For fans of Kerouac, this is one more option to soak up his imagery and float along on the unique cadence of his language. The book is as the title describes a collection of sketches of places, people and ideas from various points in Kerouac’s travels and life. He developed this technique as a strategy to hone his spontaneous writing. But make no mistake, he refined and improved his off the cuff writing to great effect in the finished pieces.

If you are new to the author, this is as good a place
Jan 30, 2021 rated it liked it
Book of Sketches is an interesting read, you get a hodge podge of ideas and themes.
Poem style/poems, some read like a stream of consciousness and some are more polished.
Lots of beautiful scenes painted with words of slices of life in America 1950's. Levi's and sunsets.

Some bits feel like Jack was up late, couldn't sleep and had to get his philosophy on life of the day/ his notes to self/ how he should live out of his head.

I did learn that Kerouac is a French-Canadian, and he writes some sketches
Sydney ✨
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was overall, just an okay read for me. Nothing about it was super impactful for me. It was cool that it was all just the way he had written it while traveling but I think I almost would have preferred some form of editing. Most likely because this was my first interaction with his work. I picked it up on a whim at Half Priced Books for cheap so I'm not too frustrated at my disappointment. ...more
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
All over the place, but that's sort of the point, right? This is one for the Kerouac fans who can hear his voice when they read him. ...more
Matt Proctor
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
live this book
Eliza Beth
Jun 09, 2022 rated it really liked it
Very interesting book of poems made me engrossed to read for hours.
Jan 20, 2008 rated it liked it
I love Jack Kerouac's style of writing, I think it is so unique and beautiful and quirky. In passing, a friend once read me a poem of his about Buddha, or enlightenment, something of the sort, and I LOVED it, and have been trying to find it ever since, which is why I picked up this book. I've listened to/watched many videos of him reading his work on youtube, so it's easy for me to hear his voice narrating these poems as I read them, and I definitely think that is an essential part of the reader ...more
Feb 12, 2022 rated it liked it
3.5 rating.

This was an unexpected find in my local bookshop a few weeks back, and as I have been gathering and setting aside books written in or about the 50's-60's, this seemed like it needed to be in my pile. I admit that I was completely sold when I found out it was not only all prose writing, but the background story is that the author was challenged by a friend to constantly carry a small notebook with him at all times and to jot down whatever came to mind as he was observing life. As a per
Mar 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Purely as a reader, I don't know if this book is worth going through to mine the handful of really great sketches. However, as someone who writes poetry, this is arguably the most influential book I've come in contact with. This is a case study on how to write dynamic imagery. If you've been told your writing has too much "subject" but not enough substance, give this a read and Kerouac's sketch method a try. It'll fix you right up.

A favorite stretch of mine:

"August senses September
in the deeper
Sep 06, 2014 rated it liked it
This books of notes (which were not supposed to be published) taught me something new about writing, that there's some kind of order and meaning behind anything that seems at first random. I like Kerouac's voice and it could be heard clearly in this book, but I can't say I enjoyed every poem. There were parts and Sketches I liked but others bored me. ...more
Simon Sweetman
Jun 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Reading these road-poems, a blur of journalism and diary entries as could only be the case when written propped against the window of a moving car, I really loved some of the language, and the style of reportage. But a lot of them seemed so full of nonsense, or just lost on those highways, never transported into the present day. It was too long...too much words, bro!
May 04, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry, beats
B- The idea--publish Kerouac's sketches (his journal of dashed of writing that was often not complete). Sometimes, very interesting, but other times, you realize there are reasons all of this was not published. ...more
Jan 27, 2009 rated it liked it
insightful as a window into his creative process in writing on the road. good to see even someone as groundbreaking as kerouac is subject to personal procrastination. ...more
Tom Mueller
Dec 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
A book of sketches as only Kerouac envisioned; that of words. Written during what critics have called Kerouac's most literate periods - between 1952 & 1957 while not coincidentally he was on the road almost constantly - published posthumously in 2006. ...more
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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.


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