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American Writers: a journey through history is a permanent archive for educators, researchers and every one interested in the writers featured in the  C‑SPAN series.


Born: March 12, 1922 - Lowell, Massachusetts
Died: October 21, 1969 - St. Petersburg, Florida

Of French-Canadian descent, Kerouac learned English as a schoolboy. He studied briefly at Columbia University (1940-41), then saw wartime service in the merchant marine and the navy (1942-43), from which he was discharged for psychological
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Jack Kerouac, On The Road
C-SPAN's Video Library: Jack Kerouac
reasons. Back in New York, he met William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg while living near Columbia, and began a restless, marginal, adventurous, drug-taking, bohemian life that would continue for many years.

A trip across the country in 1947 resulted in a first draft of the novel On the Road in 1948. His novel The Town and the City (1950) dealt with his hometown and New York. Inspired by jazz and a notion of "spontaneous bop prose," he rewrote On the Road, typing on a continuous roll of paper, in three weeks in 1951. The book's long-delayed publication in 1957 proved one of the most stunning literary events of the decade. The wild, unedited spontaneity of its prose shocked more polished writers, drew public attention to a widespread subterranean culture of poets, folksingers, hipsters, mystics, and eccentrics, and made Kerouac a well-known and charismatic figure. He gave prose and poetry readings (often backed up by jazz musicians) and made other public appearances, and his life was followed by legions of young people.

Works by Jack Kerouac
Town and the City (1950)
On the Road (1957)
The Dharma Bums(1958)
The Subterraneans(1958)
Doctor Sax (1959)
Lonesome Traveler (1960)
Desolation Angels (1965)
Visions of Cody (1972)
His study of Buddhism in 1954 lent a strongly Buddhistic bent to many of his later writings, all essentially autobiographical, which include The Dharma Bums (1958), The Subterraneans (1958), Doctor Sax (1959), Lonesome Traveler (1960), and Desolation Angels (1965). In his later years he became embittered and more deeply drug- and alcohol-dependent, and his death at 47 resulted from alcoholic-related causes. Visions of Cody was published posthumously in 1972.

Web sites about Jack Kerouac
Beat Museum: Jack Kerouac
Dharma Beat link page

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