The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac

The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac by Joyce Johnson

PS 3521 .E735 Z733 2012

“In The Voice Is All, Joyce Johnson, the author of Minor Characters, her classic memoir about her relationship with Jack Kerouac, brilliantly peels away layers of the Kerouac legend to show how, caught between two cultures and two languages, he forged a voice to contain his dualities.

Looking more deeply than previous biographers into how Kerouac’s French Canadian background enriched his prose and gave him a unique outsider’s vision of America, Johnson tracks Kerouac’s development from his boyhood in Lowell, Massachusetts, during the Great Depression through the phenomenal breakthroughs of 1951 that resulted in the composition of On the Road, followed by the first sections of Visions of Cody. By illuminating Kerouac’s early decision to sacrifice everything to his work, The Voice Is All deals with him on his own terms and puts into perspective the tragic contradictions of his nature and his complex relationships with his remarkable circle of friends, the women whose lives he passed through, the father who never understood his choices, and the mother who enabled his writing but never let him go.

The Voice Is All presents a revelatory portrayal of Kerouac not only in the midst of his tumultuous existence in postwar Manhattan and his fateful encounters with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and John Clellon Holmes, but in the periods of solitary struggle and visionary inspiration that produced his work. It shows Kerouac as an uncommonly dedicated young artist with a kind of idiosyncratic perfectionism. It sheds new light on the composition of On the Road, documenting how Kerouac’s legendary “spontaneous” writing was preceded by a series of abandoned novels in which characters, episodes, and story lines were continually reshuffled. By liberating Kerouac from the inadequate and misleading label “King of the Beats,” Johnson creates a new, even more haunting and compelling image of him, drawn from what he himself wrote in his private papers.

This groundbreaking, much needed biography significantly deepens our understanding of Kerouac’s achievement as a writer and will change the way his books are read in the twenty-first century.” – publisher description

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