Doctor Sax: Modern Classic Paperback – 20 Aug 2001
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
‘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 …See all Product Description
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
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...
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
"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".