Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac : King Of The Beats

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In conformist 1950s America, Jack Kerouac's On the Road was greeted with both delirium an dismay. For his generation - 'a generation waiting to be written' - he and the universe he created symbolism freedom. He identified the living pulse of America in jazz clubs and fast cars, and found vibrancy in hoboes hopping freight cars and travelling the highways. In his hunt for the big experience and his longing for greatness, Kerouac has inspired each successive generation. He is now an icon, an image, an attitude, forever personifying 'the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time ...' Including the sale of the Kerouac archive to the New York public library, Jack Kerouac : King of the Beats is a completely up-to-date, provocative and intimate portrait of one of the twentieth century's most influential writers, revealing a man full of contradictions, rarely at peace with himself. Barry Miles, friend and official biographer of Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs, provides a meticulously researched exploration of the complex man and extraordinary writer whose creative mishmash of joyous incoherence, drug-induced ecstasy, genuine mysticism and constant craving has persuaded so many to take to the road.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 130 x 190 x 30mm | 299.38g
  • Ebury Publishing
  • Virgin Books
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • None
  • 0753500590
  • 9780753500590
  • 447,200

Review quote

"[Miles's] mastery of Beat Generation know-how must surely be unrivalled." Sunday Telegraph "Thorough and enthralling ... An excellent portrait." Mail on Sunday "Compelling and honest." The Timesshow more

About Barry Miles

Barry Miles is a bestselling author of numerous biographies and cultural histories of the Beat Generation luminaries, The Beatles, the sixties movements and its musicians. He lives in London and France.show more

Review Text

A project for which there could scarcely be less demand: not just another telling of the numbingly well-documented life of Beat Generation warhorse Jack Kerouac, but one penned by the indefatigably irrelevant Beat crony Barry Miles. This completes the trilogy started with Miles's clumsy biographies of Allen Ginsberg (1989) and William S. Burroughs (1993), only this time his subject wasn't around to help him out with insights and information. Miles notes the obvious, that Kerouac's "work is located in an uneasy limbo between fiction and memoir," and mentions repeatedly Kerouac's desire that his works should ultimately form a single epic saga Yet he undercuts himself, on the one hand, by criticizing Kerouac's work as inaccurate autobiography, and on the other by relying on the writings as a source of biographical detail. The result is a hash of conflicting perspectives. Aside from a prurient emphasis on Kerouac's gay sexual forays, Miles offers little that's new and much that's absurd. Having established that Kerouac was a pathologically irresponsible, abusive, mixed-up drank, Miles rants fatuously about Kerouac's refusal to acknowledge his daughter: "Where was Kerouac when he should have been reading his daughter bedtime stories, sharing with her his love for words?" Miles claims that Kerouac introduced "a level of candour previously unknown in modern literature . . . at a time when real men were strong silent types who didn't cry or even say very much," yet he fails to provide any context or justification for such assertions. Identifying Kerouac's never-revised, often meaningless "spontaneous prose" as generated by a method "normally used for rapidly written pulps and romance novels," Miles fails to distinguish between Kerouac's lazy, amphetamine-fueled hubris and the more substantial, less volatile craft of the genre writer. One respects Miles only for admitting that huge amounts of Kerouac's work are wretched. (Kirkus Reviews)show more