Barry Miles Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats

ISBN 13: 9780805060430

Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats

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9780805060430: Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats
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An intimate biography of the writer who has become an American icon. More than fifty years after the publication of On the Road, Jack Kerouac is more read and revered by a new generation than ever before. Why this is so is the subject of Barry Miles's fresh and revealing portrait of the writer who is the acknowledged leader of the Beat movement, the group of writers that included Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, who together influenced the direction of writing and culture more than any group of artists since England's Bloomsbury. From his birth in blue-collar Lowell, Massachusetts in 1922 to his years at Columbia University during World War II where he first met Allen Ginsberg and all the wild times that followed with friends such as Neal Cassady and Gary Snyder, here is the story of Jack Kerouac's life as never told before. Barry Miles draws on his close friendship with Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs to offer new insight into both the exuberance and dismay of the man who inspired a whole generation to take to the road. Kerouac is now an icon, an image, an attitude, and a new generation looks to him as a symbol of freedom. Barry Miles shows us Kerouac the man and Kerouac the leg, his longing for greatness and the consequences of achieving it.

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Review:

Barry Miles, noted for Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, also wrote biographies of Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. This hatchet job on Kerouac lacks what makes his McCartney book great--total access to his subject--and it won't replace the more eloquent bios Kerouac and Memory Babe. But it is enriched by Miles's interviews with those in a position to debunk the legend. Was Kerouac a sweet saint, as his burgeoning congregation believes? "He cared more for his cat than for his own daughter," writes Miles, and the rich Kerouac did let his kid become a 13-year-old junkie prostitute. Was he a deep Buddhist? Buddhist poet Philip Whalen says Jack didn't quite get it. Jack couldn't drive, either--it was the idea he liked. Did he write On the Road in a burst of unedited inspiration on a 120-foot roll of paper? No, he revised the text. The last four feet of the scroll were chewed up by the dog belonging to Lucien Carr (the father of Caleb Carr, author of The Alienist), but the dog may have actually accomplished some helpful editing, as did Malcolm Cowley. The book's best line (about "the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk") was composed months later.

Kerouac was often monstrous, even before he became a KKK cross-burning kook locked in a bizarre relationship with his bigoted, alcoholic mother. For what's good about Kerouac, consult more sympathetic scholars. The best of him is in his own books. --Tim Appelo

About the Author:

Barry Miles (known as Miles) ran a bookstore in London in the 1960s devoted to Beat literature and was a close fri of Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs. He is the author of Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now.

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