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Doctor Sax: Modern Classic Paperback – 20 Aug 2001

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Paperback, 20 Aug 2001
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New edition edition (20 Aug. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0586091564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0586091562
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 0.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,408,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘Spooky and tender with stretches of sheer phosphorescent fantasy, “Doctor Sax” has a vigour and thirst for life. A real prize, one of the lost gems of modern literature.’ Rolling Stone

‘Duluoz is exuberantly profane and comfortably delinquent, and like any right-thinking twelve year old, he is a track addict. On cold winter mornings, he scribbles out racing forms and stages elaborate handicap races with marbles. Full of pinball prose, “Doctor Sax” is an elegy to the warm, safe smells of a tenement kitchen and the dark mysteries of a city neighbourhood. It is Kerouac’s best book.’ Time

‘Vivid, moving and funny.’ Guardian

From the Back Cover

Of all his books, 'Doctor Sax' was the one Jack Kerouac loved the most. He began writing it in 1948, but wrote the greater part of it in 1952, when he was staying in Mexico with William Burroughs.

Told through the character of Kerouac’s fictional alter ego, Jack Duluoz, the novel tells the story of his extraordinary childhood in Massachusetts. A clever and rebellious boy, playing among the river weeds and railroad tracks, going to the movies, reading pulp comics and watching cartoons, Jack creates an imaginary world of strange, new possibilities. Within this world lies the weird and wonderful Doctor Sax …

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By A Customer VINE VOICE on 30 July 2004
Format: Paperback
Kerouac claimed Doctor Sax to be his favourite amongst his many fine works and it is easy to see why. 'On the road' was the epitome of his road-trip stories and though each was a gripping read, you know pretty much what to expect. Doctor Sax, however, is one of the rare occasions where Kerouac chose to focus on another aspect of his life: his childhood.
Doctor Sax another chapter in the life story of familiar alter-ego Jack Duluoz. Jack keeps busy by playing imaginative games with his mates or by himself, growing up in his french-canadian family. As the many tales of fun and mischief unfold, mysterious accounts of the enigmatic Doctor Sax and Count Condu give an insight of the magical dreams and imagination of Jack, leading up to what is a fantastic ending.
The imagery in Doctor Sax is the key feature and of course, Kerouac is no stranger to writing like this. Though not quite as plot or event driven as 'On the Road' or 'Desolation Angels', this book more than makes up for its varying changes in pace by its colourful characters and purely fantastical sequences towards the end. Doctor Sax is Kerouac's masterpiece...
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By Sebastian Palmer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 10 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
My two favourite Kerouac novels are his debut The Town and the City, and this one, Doctor Sax. Whilst The Town and The City has many Kerouackian hallmarks - the attention to detailed settings; landscapes, people, food, all are minutely and lovingly drawn; a strangely joyful melancholy (his awareness of transience and loss making him ripe for later interest in Bhuddism, with it's concepts of 'mara'/illusion, and 'dhukka'/suffering) - it remains a more conventional novel, being quite large, well-structured, and formally 'correct' (compared to the more experimental writings of the times like Burroughs' 'cut-ups' and Kerouac's own more stream of consciousness writings - sometimes direct transcriptions of 'field-recordings' of conversation, goofing off, etc. - as exemplified by books like Visions of Cody).

Doctor Sax finds Kerouac covering similar territory in terms of plundering his own past, but by this stage his writing style is considerably more personal. I hesitate to use the word 'mature', because that's not the key-note to Kerouac's development as a person or a writer: his was an emotional as well as intellectual road, and Doctor Sax is a powerfully dream-like novel, in which the young Kerouac (as his Duluoz alter-ego) creates his own imaginary world, a world that blends fact and fantasy, and over which the bizarre Doctor Sax character hangs, like a jazzy vampire, both cool and disturbing. Indeed, a large part of Kerouac's charm might be said to arise from an inability to mature emotionally, although as a writer I think one can talk of his having matured over time.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have to agree with the other reviewer, this is a masterpiece. Personally I love all of his work, but this and "Visions of Cody", are the real corkers.Spellbinding.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars 24 reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Divine 29 April 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is kerouac's favourite out of all of his works - and rightly so. It delves into his psyche and provides an almost burroughsesque peice of literature. This book is not for people unused to the writing of kerouac, so if you haven't read any before i recommend that you check out On The Road before embracing this. It begins as a regular peice of kerouac, recounting events of his very early youth in Lowell, Mass. but ascends (or decends depending on your opinion) into a realm of psychedelic, almost biblical dream-hallucination based on a mythical character called Dr. Sax who combats the realms of evil (with the help of young JK/JD) which are personified by the snake, but more supremely by the dove. I wont tell the end 'cause that would piss ev'ryone off but shall finish by saying that Dr. Sax comes highly recommended by me as an 'alternative' kerouac.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His best 23 Jan. 2010
By B. Wilson - Published on
Format: Paperback
While Kerouac is most known for his popular Beat works such as On the Road, Dharma Bums and Subterraneans, I think the true depth of his creative genius can be found in this phantastic exploration of the rich world of childhood fantasy. The book is not a necessarily easy read. It is filled with the alliterative nonsensical wordplay that Kerouac seemed to delight in. The narrative does not flow in a linear motion. It reads more like the distracted musings of a young boy. The writing is smooth, however, and flows with the jazz-infused seamlessness that Kerouac is known for.

There are several layers to the story. The first is the recounting of Kerouac's childhood in Lowell, Mass. His imagery is bold and imbued with power. Descriptions of the town and his experiences there easily pull the reader in. You can hear the cold rush of the river. You can see the streets, the crooked trees, the gray smoke. You can feel the snowy shadowy dread of winter. You can even feel the childhood excitement of made up games and secret worlds.

The second layer of this story is Kerouac's wildly rich imaganitive world, which plays out in unison with his daily romps with neighborhood friends and family. Here is where the story is truly remarkable. Dr. Sax is a figure of Jack's imagination. He is personal and archetypal, a complex of adolescence and creeping maturity. At once sinister and intriguing, Dr. Sax leaps through the pages like a summoner. You want to rush after him. But childhood distracts and the mundane world draws back both your and Kerouac's attention time and time again. What Kerouac has done is brilliantly bring to life the secret fantasy world of the child. And he has done so without the slightest kitsch or fuzziness. The book is soaked in sentimentality, but it is darkly sentimental, almost mournful. I finished the book with a bit of sadness - sorry the book had ended and also missing my own youthful past.

This is a childhood book for adults. The third layer of the story is Dr. Sax himself. Beyond Jack and his fantasy world, there is Dr. Sax and his own machinations. Like a true archetypal figure from Jack's unconscious, Dr. Sax is working behind the scenes, mysterious, frightenting, mad and misunderstood. He is preparing, ostensibly for Jack's maturation, certainly for dark battles. Dr. Sax could be Kerouac's creative madness, possibly his shadow. In any case, he is a constant flirter of shadows, coloring the gray world of Lowell with something like a deep ocher.

This is Jack Kerouac at his poetic best, in my opinion. At his sentimental best. At his mournful Catholic best. At his imaginative best. Though it is fiction, it is also a great insight into the poetic realm of Kerouac's mind. If this was not his childhood as it truly was, then it was his childhood as he dreamed it to be, which is just as telling. I suspect it is a delicate mixture of both. Fiction or no, the book rings of truth. Dr. Sax resonates deep inside of the reader, tocuhing primal nerves and stirring the many ghosts that roam our collective imaginative pasts.

I highly recommend it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dr. Sax 11 Sept. 2007
By Robin Friedman - Published on
Format: Paperback
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's (1922-- 1969) "On the Road." The Library of America, among others publishers, has marked the occasion with the publication of a new volume including five Kerouac "Road Novels". I wanted to reread other works by Kerouac besides the "road novels" that are in danger of being overlooked, and I turned to "Dr. Sax". Kerouac wrote "Dr. Sax" in 1952 while living with William Burroughs in Mexico City. It was a difficult time for both writers. Kerouac had already written "On the Road" but could not get it published. Burroughs had just accidentally killed his lover, Joan Vollmer, during a drunken game of "William Tell". "Dr. Sax" proved even more difficult to publish than "On the Road" and did not appear in print until 1959.

"Dr. Sax" differs from "On the Road" and the other books in the LOA collection in that it is set in Lowell, Massachusetts, the town where Kerouac grew up. Lowell is a small mill town on the banks of the Merrimack River. During Kerouac's boyhood, it was home to a substantial French-Canadian immigrant population, to a community of Greek Americans and to several other diverse ethnic groups. Kerouac's parents were both immigrants from French Canada. They spoke a dialect of French in their home and Kerouac did not learn English until he was about seven years old. A fascinating part of "Dr. Sax" is the French dialogue among Kerouac and his family -- with Kerouac immediately providing an English rendition in addition to the French.

The book is written from the perspective of an adult -- Kerouac in 1952 in Mexico City -- looking back and reflecting upon his childhood and early adolescence from the standpoint of his ongoing difficult life as a writer struggling for publication and combating his own inner demons of drugs and alcohol. It opens with a dream, and Kerouac tells the reader that "memory and dream are intermixed in this mad universe." The book features a strange character the young Kerouac invented named Dr. Sax, a sinister figure in a cape and slouch hat. Dr. Sax is accompanied by other bizzare characters including Count Cordu the Vampire, the Great Snake, the Wizard, and others who live in a large weed-grown abandoned house on a snake-infested hill just outside of Lowell. Kerouac conceived the idea of Dr. Sax from various comic books that were popular when he was a child.

"Dr. Sax" is memorable largely for the picture it draws of Kerouac's childhood and of Lowell. (Kerouac is named Jack Duluoz or "Ti Jean" in the book.) It gives good portraits of Kerouac's mother and father and of the family's many moves among the poorer neighborhoods of the town and of Kerouac's older sister and ill-fated brother Gerard who died when he was ten. Kerouac, Ti Jean is portrayed as a sensitive, imaginative and athletic child. The book offers portraints of Kerouac playing baseball and marbles, going to church, engaging in pranks and fights with his childhood friends and enemies, watching movies and reading books, experiencing the first flush of sexuality and learning to masturbate, and learning of death, in the person of Gerard and several others. The book also shows a great deal of Lowell and its environs, especially of a large flood that destroyed much of the city's downtown in 1936.

The story of young Ti Jean and of Lowell is punctuated by comic-book like tales of Dr. Sax. Dr. Sax also appears as a shadowy figure commenting upon and observing the life of young Kerouac and his family and friends. There is something sinister about Sax throughout most of the book. He is partly drawn from William Burroughs, as he is shown travelling through South and Central America for various "powders". In the lengthy final chapter of the book, Ti Jean accompanies Dr. Sax in a bizzare chapter in which Sax purports to ward off the forces of evil that threaten Lowell. The story gets a sharp wizard-of-Oz-like twist at the end.

With the comic characters and the surprise ending, there is a great deal of mad humor in Dr. Sax, but the tone still is predominantly one of melancholy and reflection. In one particularly good scene, Kerouac's dying uncle prophetically tells him: "my child poor Ti Jean, do you know my dear that you are destined to be a man of big sadness and talent-- it'll never to live or die, you'll suffer like others -- more" The Dr. Sax figure, similarly, seems to show the price Kerouac paid for becoming a writer. The book suggests -- with its subtitle "Faust Part Three" that Kerouac's writing was part of a Faustian bargain with Dr. Sax in which Kerouac paid for his literary imagination with a sad and tormented life.

Dr. Sax was Kerouac's favorite among his own novels, and many readers would among his work regard it as his best or second-best after "On the Road." (Other works have their own partisans as well.) This book will interest readers who want to see a lesser-known side of Kerouac. The book is written in a variety of styles. It is erratic and not easy reading. Those who are interested in Kerouac's portrayals of his life in Lowell might also enjoy "Maggie Cassidy" and Kerouac's first and underappreciated book, "The Town and the City".

Robin Friedman
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Spiritual 26 April 2000
By Case Brockelman - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is a creeper. A few months after you read it, you will realize that you love it. Kerouak mentions the conceptualization of Dr. Sax in On the Road, where JK's main character talks about a book he is writing, and mentions the ultimate scene in Sax. The story is full of visuals that stay in the mind. Inspiration from Bram Stoker is evident, and mixes with old radio serials adventure. A coming of age story that is comic book, before comic books were cool, and with a fantastic ending that is unexpected and thought provoking. A wonderful read every time.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense Imagery and humorous sketchings 19 May 2000
By Rayv - Published on
Format: Library Binding
Another great novel by the master of Beat. In this book Kerouac takes us thru the town of Lowell, centering around Christ-like pneuma Sax as his tutelary spirit. Many biblical symbols often appear, somehow transforming the novel to holy scriptures. When reading Dr. Sax I discover that writing can be comical and at the same time perceptive. A must read.
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