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Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings

(Duluoz Legend)

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  5,393 ratings  ·  39 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 Atop an Underwood brings together more than sixty previously unpublished works that Kerouac wrote before he was twenty-two, ranging from stories and poems to plays and parts of novels, including ...more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, 249 pages
Published November 1st 2000 by Penguin Books (first published November 1st 1999)
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3.54  · 
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 ·  5,393 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Jun 29, 2013 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
Oct 27, 2010 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.
Jerry Oliver
Mar 22, 2011 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 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.
Oct 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
best insight into a legend before the world knew how great he was...
Jesper Sorensen
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: beat
he knew what he was doing all along
Michael Webb
Oct 28, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a pretty varied collection in terms of its quality as it is a post-mortem collection of Kerouac's early writings. The earliest stuff is the most disposable to me, particularly the sports-related ephemera from his earliest writings where he would create fictitious sports leagues and narratives to go with them.

The back half of the book flows more with fragmentary "super short stories" (comprising a page or three) intermixed with poetry and slightly longer fragments, most notably one sectio
Taylor Bush
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a ragtag collection of Jack Kerouac's early writings that range from the profound and inspiring to the different (some more fiction-based than you might be used to reading from him or on subjects like food and baseball) to the ehhhh. Essential for any Kerouac fan to chart the beginnings and growth of his writing or aspiring writers to be inspired that so many of his ideas he spoke so passionately about from an early age eventually flowered--giving one hope that with enough zest one can a ...more
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great book. You can watch Kerouac's style grow and mature from page to page. These early works crackle with energy.
Chris King
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
6 STARS ...******
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written and read on his birthday :)
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kerouac, literature
It was really interesting to read things that the author had written in his younger years.
Dec 05, 2011 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 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!
Jul 07, 2012 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
Jan 12, 2014 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 17, 2010 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
Jan 05, 2015 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 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
Apr 29, 2013 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 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
LOVED 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."
Matt Long
Jul 11, 2014 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.
Jun 17, 2015 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.
May 11, 2010 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.
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The passion of youth expressed with a love of literature that only he could have delivered.....
Veronika Ebringerová
May 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
in the Czech language
Mark McKenny
Sep 15, 2015 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.
Oct 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: paperback, own
Fantastic sampling of Kerouac's works from when he started out, and his growth as a writer.
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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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“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.” 232 likes
“My eyes were glued on life
and they were full of tears.”
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