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on 6 July 2012
Kerouac left much of his life story already told in his many auto-biographical novels of the wild days when he crossed the country coast to coast in his quest for a "rucksack revolution". Placing the emphasis firmly on exploring how much of what Kerouac wrote could be traced to actual events, Charters has produced a fine literary biography of this troubled, but revolutionary writer. The core finding of Charters study shows Kerouac to be a more tragic figure than his literary persona might suggest, making sense of the tragic end his life came at the young age of 42, already burnt out and unable to write any more. Charters draws out clearly, just how much at the centre of things Kerouac was, as well as underlining the degree to which he struggled to retain relationships beyond that with his mother. Whilst the tales Kerouac tells of wild parties, and idolising of characters such as Cassidy and Synder, the truth seems darker, with frequent fallings out, and long spells when Kerouac felt lonely and depressed. It's not to say that Kerouac is therefore lying in his novels, as Charters makes the point that Kerouac is seeking to relate his own understanding of his life within the concept of the Dulouz Legend - something that, from his books almost seemed to gain a life force of it's own. Kerouac ultimately is a narrator of events, events which took place at an extraordinary time to be alive, and writing. Kerouac's genius comes from his ability to turn those wild parties and drunken, drug induced dashes cross country into something that has energy, spirit and sheer joy on the page, bringing alive for so many the life that Kerouac dreamed possible, but tragically somehow never realised himself, perhaps from shyness, or weakness. It is undoubted that Kerouac broke new ground with his writing, but even there, the long tale of the writing, and then frequent revisions of "On the Road" seem to suggest that the reality of the great "spontaneous prose" writer that Kerouac fostered was perhaps a little more prosaic. Again, perhaps Kerouac's genius is his ability to hone his writing to a level of apparent spontaneity - driven from the underlying belief he had in the method and merits of this way of writing. Overall Charters investigates Kerouac the Legend, Kerouac the Writer and his influence and importance in an engaging, and unfussy way. Surely a must for anyone interested in Kerouac, and the story behind the stories.
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on 11 June 2010
this is a good read. never heavy going - despite the fact that it's subject can be.
i enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to anyone who's enjoyed the work of jack kerouac.
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on 10 July 2013
it was good to know the man behind the books from another person's perspective. The film 'On the Road' is a great disappointment
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on 2 September 2016
One of the best biography one could ever write about it
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on 27 June 1998
Next to Greg Nicosia's book, this is probably the best biography we have on Kerouac. I'd recommend that you read both Charter's and Nicosia's.
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