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Kerouac: Selected Letters
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Jack Kerouac(1922-1969), the central figure of the Beat Generation, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922 and died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969. Among his many novels are On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and Visions of Cody.
Ann Charters is the editor of The Portable Sixties Reader, The Portable Jack Kerouac, two volumes of Jack Kerouac's Selected Letters, and Beat Down to Your Soul. She teaches at the University of Connecticut.

Reviews

The peripatetic urgency, Buddhist catchphrases and casual prose of On the Road (1957) and Dharma Bums (1958) made Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) the star of the Beat generation. Kerouac's "craft of spontaneous prose" (in Charters's words) let him use his letters as rough drafts for some of his autobiographical fiction. Devotees of those novels can troll for their favorite episodes among Kerouac's complaints, requests, loans, repayments, reports, retorts, rebukes and resolutions. "[W]hen I write a book it's just a chapter in the whole story," a 1960 missive to Neal Cassady explains, "but there wd be no literature in the world safe to say i would rather read than my own remembrance of things." Editor Charters (also Kerouac's biographer) uses her annotations and commentary to make the sometimes hasty, expressive missives cohere as an account of the novelist's life. A first volume of letters appeared in 1995; this second starts with the publication of On the Road and continues almost to the day Kerouac died. The years 1957-1960, the height of Kerouac's career, occupy more than half the volume. Later letters record his struggle to care for his ailing mother, his efforts to finish his later books and his troubles with money and health: "I drink more than ever, my hands tremble, I can't type." Frequent addressees and subjects include Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg ("I still think he's a false prophet, sheep's clothing and ravening wolf"). By turns witty, slovenly and empathetic, the letters provide a look into Kerouac's psyche and into the exhilarating, frustrating, ramshackle milieu he helped create. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

"Reveals the boldness and originality of Kerouac's artistic vision."
--The Boston Globe"It remains clear from his later letters that Kerouac understood what he was doing as a writer. He consistently explains his aesthetic, his plan to create the Duluoz Legend of books, and the essentially benign charity of his vision."
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San Francisco Chronicle"Rambunctious and energetic . . . the letters convey the genius of that special American type--the perpetual motion man."
--The Washington Post"Kerouac's letters and early stories supplement his legend, providing a fuller portrait of a true American original."
--
The Boston Globe

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