Edit
Jack Kerouac Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (18) | Personal Quotes (4) | Salary (1)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 12 March 1922Lowell, Massachusetts, USA
Date of Death 21 October 1969St. Petersburg, Florida, USA  (intestinal hemorrhage)
Birth NameJean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac
Nicknames Ti Jean
Jean-Louis
Memory Babe
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Jack Kerouac was born into a French-Canadian family and spoke French before he learned English. His father was a printer and a local businessman. His first-ever story was inspired by the radio show "The Shadow". As a young writer he styled himself after Thomas Wolfe, and attended Columbia University. Although his most famous novel is "On the Road", some of his other better known novels are "The Town and the City" and "The Dharma Burns", about a group of writers and Zen. Kerouac, who was married three times, was a very heavy drinker, which was a major factor in his deteriorating health, and he died at home in 1969.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Kornel Osvart <osvart@iname.com>

Spouse (3)

Stella Kerouac (18 November 1966 - 21 October 1969) (his death)
Joan Haverty (17 November 1950 - 1951) (divorced) (1 child)
Edie Kerouac Parker (22 August 1944 - 18 September 1946) (annulled)

Trade Mark (1)

Originated the term "Beat Generation."

Trivia (18)

His last marriage was to Stella Sampas, the sister of his friend and writing mentor Sammy Sampas (who died at Anzio during World War II). She had waited more than twenty years in their hometown (Lowell MA) for Jack to come back for her.
Kerouac researched his family history, turning up both a family crest and the motto "Love, Work and Suffer". According to Barry Miles' 1999 biography "King of the Beats", Kerouac claimed that his family was of aristocratic lineage, who emigrated from Ireland to Cornwall in England and then to Brittany. Miles says the name "Kerouac", in Breton dialect, likely means "Beloved father", which is highly ironic as Miles claims that Kerouac suffered from an Oedipal complex in which he replaced his father as his mother's faux-"husband".
Author of "The Dharma Bums", expanded from his notes about a camping trip with writer and teacher Gary Snyder, when The Viking Press demanded a quick follow-up to "On the Road". (Snyder, who is called "Japhy Ryder" in the book, spent 13 years in Japan studying Zen Buddhism. He won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry his collection "Turtle Island".)
He is one of several famous and tragic figures from history to be featured on the front and back sleeves of rock band Marillion's "Clutching at Straws" album (1987).
His book, "On the Road", is referred to in the lyrics of the Marillion track "Torch Song": "Read some Kerouac and it put me on the tracks to burn a little brighter now".
Kerouac's mother Gabrielle (called "Memère") usually had no involvement with her son's writing career. A rare exception was his novel "Pic", which he wrote much of at her bedside when Memère was ill. The original ending had the hero meeting other Kerouac characters and travelling with them; she suggested instead that young Pic meet a priest who'd help him to settle down.
Entered Columbia University (where he met Allen Ginsberg) on a football scholarship, with the apparent promise that the athletic department would find his father Leo a job in New York. Jack broke his leg during a practice game and was out for the season, while the job for Leo never materialized, and Jack and his professors rarely saw eye-to-eye. Discouraged, he began cutting classes, then finally dropped out.
When World War II broke out, in a drunken haze he enlisted in the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard all on the same day. He ultimately shipped out for Naval training at Great Lakes, but soured on the whole idea after a few weeks, and started to give an unfinished manuscript more attention than anything else. Sensing a breakdown of some kind, his superiors sent him for psychological evaluation, leading to his discharge from the Navy. Later he enlisted in the Merchant Marine, serving a successful hitch and qualifying for veteran's benefits.
Never had a driver's license, and was envious of any skilled driver, his friend Neal Cassady in particular. Apparently made his peace with driving coming back from a Mexican trip, when he had to take the wheel part-time over long stretches of desert, as he described later in "Desolation Angels".
Buried in his hometown; it was years before his grave received a marker. His epitaph reads "He honored life".
Never lost his sense of patriotism for America, even at the height of Vietnam War-era cynicism. When a flag was draped over him at a late-60s party, he carefully folded it and put it away.
Remembered in the 10,000 Maniacs song "Hey Jack Kerouac".
He came up with the title of his close friend William S. Burroughs's book "Naked Lunch", though he later claimed to have no memory of having done so. Kerouac was visiting Burroughs in Tangier in the mid-'50s and was drafted by Burroughs into retyping his manuscript. One story has it that the far-sighted Kerouac looked at the title of the manuscript, originally entitled "Naked Lust", and read it as "Naked Lunch." Burroughs allegedly liked the mistake so much he kept it. Ironically, food was one of the reasons that Burroughs' friendship with Kerouac began to sour. Both were dreadfully poor, but Kerouac -- who was staying rent-free with Burroughs -- would not give any money for food and ate all there was in the house, leaving none for his host. In 1957 a disgusted Burroughs eventually broke off his friendship with Kerouac, whom he now considered a selfish weakling, tied to his mother's apron strings. After the break they met only once more, in New York City in 1968 at a bar, before Kerouac went on William F. Buckley's TV talk show Firing Line (1966) (Kerouac had been an acquaintance of Buckley at the Horace Mann School). An alcoholic, Kerouac was already drunk and got drunker, and Burroughs told him not to go on the show. He did, and made a fool of himself.
In 1958, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer paid Kerouac $15,000 (approximately $100,000 in 2006 terms) for the rights to his book The Subterraneans (1960). Kerouac used the money to buy a house in Long Island, the first he had ever owned.
Sporadically worked for movie studios summarizing scripts and writing synopses in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The jobs were infrequent; the longest stint was his initial assignment, which lasted six weeks in 1947.
Although he served in the Merchant Marine during World War II, like many French Canadians Kerouac felt that the U.S. should not be at war with Germany. Vichy France was an ally of Nazi Germany, and many French Candians in Quebec were pro-Germany (one of the reasons Laurence Olivier played a French Canadian trapper named Johnny who tells the Nazi officer he is a "Canadian" in Michael Powell's and Emeric Pressburger's 49th Parallel (1941) was that it was a propaganda film to promote pro-British feeling in Canada, and specifically Quebec). When Canada resorted to conscription to swell the ranks of its army, there were draft riots throughout Quebec, so intense was the feeling against the United Kingdom, which of course had subjugated New France less than 200 years before (anti-war sentiment was so great that Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King declared that only volunteers would be shipped off to Europe). Both Kerouac's father Leo and his mother Gabrielle were anti-Semites and pro-German; in fact, when Jack had a nervous breakdown and was put in the psycho ward after undergoing Navy training, Leo said that he was proud of his son, that he wouldn't fight a war concocted by Communists and Jews. Kerouac still had these attitudes until the end of his life, and his last editor, Ellis Amburn (writing in his biography "Subterranean Kerouac: The Hidden Life of Jack Kerouac"), found his attitude troublesome when they were working on Kerouac's last novel published in his lifetime, "Vanity of Dulouz". In the book, the Kerouac character laments the death of "Aryans" as his ship is torpedoing a submarine.
Was offered $110,000 for the screen rights to "On the Road" (approximately $750,000 in 2006 terms). On the advice of his agent Sterling Lord, he turned the offer down, holding out for a hope-for $150,000 deal with Paramount that would have involved Marlon Brando starring as Dean Moriarity. The deal fell through and the book was never sold in his life time, leaving Kerouac with bitter feelings towards his agent.
His last editor, Ellis Amburn - in his biography "Subterranean Kerouac: The Hidden Life of Jack Kerouac" - said that Kerouac claimed he lost his homosexual virginity on his first cruise with the Merchant Marine during World War II, when he was "corn-holed" by the cook. The cook later gave him a leather jacket in appreciation. After making a second trip during the War, Kerouac jumped ship during a third in order to escape the amorous advances of a bosun's mate.

Personal Quotes (4)

You can't fight City Hall. It keeps changing its name.
I don't know, I don't care, and it doesn't make any difference!
I'm pro-American... this country gave my French-Canadian family a good break.
[from the original manuscript of 'On the Road'] I shambled after as usual as I've been doing all my life after people that interest me, because the only people that interest me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yearn or say a commonplace thing...but burn, burn, burn, burn like roman candles across the night.

Salary (1)

The Subterraneans (1960) $15,000

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page