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The Portable Jack Kerouac (Portable Library) Paperback – March 1, 1996

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Jack Kerouac produced a substantial body of writings in his mercurial career. His drug- and alcohol-inspired furious bursts on the typewriter created energetic and exciting prose, chronicling his experiences and impressions of the untapped restlessness of America in the 1950s. On the Road is certainly his most recognized and influential work, but among his other efforts are books and stories that range from inspired beauty and to sad desperation. Ann Charters, who wrote the first Kerouac biography in 1973 and worked with him in preparing his first bibliography, has assembled here a first-rate sample of some of his better work. The collection is a perfect way to sample Kerouac and necessary for those looking past On the Road. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Much as Viking's Portable William Faulkner rekindled interest in Faulkner because his editor, Malcolm Cowley, had the brainstorm of pulling together a map of Faulkner's epic Yoknapatawpha County series of novels and stories in order to give the work a new coherence, so Kerouac gains new stature as a result of labors by his biographer, Charters (Kerouac: A Biography). Here she chronologically excerpts the perhaps 16 volumes of the Legend of Duluoz to create a map of Kerouac's oeuvre, which, according to the publisher, he had planned before his death. She supports it not only with fat slices of Kerouac's best writing but also with an investigation into his bop prosody that gives his jazz-riff style a new currency. In fact, this volume may deal a fist in the face of the English sentence, because Kerouac's revamping of the sentence is so song-filled and emotion-ridden that its properties could well do for American prose what Whitman did for verse: give it new life. An alcoholic jamming by candlelight with scotch and pot on the kitchen table, he mixes jazz with Rimbaud's derangement of the senses to create a vehicle for his own anguish as he recollects his life on the run. The Portable shows Kerouac at his best as a riff artist but also gathers to stronger effect than any single Kerouac novel. Includes selections from his poetry and experimental novels.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Portable Library
  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140178198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140178197
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,025,095 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a great introduction to the range of styles and themes that Kerouac's artistry brings to the page. Ann Charters, who wrote one of the first and best of the long line of Kerouac biographies, shows herself to be a deft editor in this volume. She fits the "essential" chapters of Kerouac's major books together to present a mosaic of his talent and invites us to follow Kerouac from his "Town and City" Thomas Wolfe style through the wild marijuana sense-o-round syntax of "Dr. Sax" and "Mexico City Blues" to the benzedrine jack-hammers in "The Subterraneans," "On the Road" and "Visions of Cody". Along the way we see Kerouac's energy brown and shrivel in "The Dharma Bums"; his sentimentality run amuck in "Tristessa" and "Visions of Gerald." We read cobbled-together explanations of what "Beat" means, and the "first thought/best thought" of spontaneous prose that's become a siren song for so much post-post-post modern blather. "Who touches this book touches the man," Whitman said (or should have said, if he didn't), and the same surely applies to Kerouac, whose writing falters as his body falters and youth, health, mind and being fume away in a great "Bonfire of the Vanities." Charters gives the essentials to us--even down to the English language haiku complete with dead flies in medicine cabinets. Pick this book up first, along with the Charters' biography, then move on to Charters' Portable Beat Anthology, then branch out (if you need to) to the new volumes of Kerouac being "discovered" all the time and keep the dream, the romance of the "open road" going--along with the steady industry that Beat-dom has grown to become in the 21st century. In this chunky volume, Ann Charters presents the very best of Kerouac and does not pretend to redefine his worst writing as somehow his best, as do those with a vested interest in Kerouac the Buddhist Saint. For that, all clear-headed readers must thank her.
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Format: Paperback
GRANTED that the selections are a mishmash of Kerouac styles, and at times misuse words with a kind of tender haughtiness and screw you if you don't like it but this is what I bruit. Bruit? But at his best Kerouac time and again tells us of that railroad earth and trains rolling under October skies and rushes up our noses with piney phrases that would raise gooseflesh on Thomas Wolfe. What's more, Ann Charters serves Jack nobly by inventively selecting along a timeline that captures the hero's age throughout, a superb bit of editing much like Malcolm Cowley's for The Portable Faulkner in which he patched together a groundbreaking picture of Yoknapatawpha County from Faulkner's many works. A Must-Have Kerouac volume that should break ground for new readers and give old admirers a bath in that old spontaneous prose he dreamed up nightly with candlelight on the kitchen table, booze, and weed. Some of it's mush, some visionary, and much of it just what writing should be: straight from the heart.
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Format: Paperback
This collection is wonderfully edited. There are no major breaks in the plot and Ann Charters commentary provides a good context to understand the book (e.g. she provides a table that matches character names to actual people). However, since the books were written out of order, the immensely different writing styles of Kerouac's different novels do not mesh well at times. It is fine for somebody who has had previous exposure to Kerouac's writing and now wants a survey of all his different styles, but I would generally recommend buying the individual books.
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Format: Paperback
Some of the general points made below have been used in other reviews of books and materials by and about Jack Kerouac.

"As I have explained in another entry in this space in a DVD review of the film documentary "The Life And Times Of Allen Ginsberg", recently I have been in a "beat" generation literary frame of mind. I think it helps to set the mood for commenting on Jack Kerouac's lesser work under review here, "Big Sur", that it all started last summer when I happened to be in Lowell, Massachusetts on some personal business. Although I have more than a few old time connections with that now worn out mill town I had not been there for some time. While walking in the downtown area I found myself crossing a small park adjacent to the site of a well-known mill museum and restored textile factory space. Needless to say, at least for any reader with a sense of literary history, at that park I found some very interesting memorial stones inscribed with excerpts from a number of his better known works dedicated to Lowell's `bad boy', the "king of the 1950s beat writers".

And, just as naturally, when one thinks of Kerouac then, "On The Road", his classic modern physical and literary `search' for the meaning of America for his generation which came of age in post-World War II , readily comes to mind. No so well known, however, is the fact that that famous youthful novel was merely part of a much grander project, an essentially autobiographical exposition by Kerouac in many volumes starting from his birth in 1922, to chart and vividly describe his relationship to the events, great and small, of his times. Those volumes bear the general title "The Legend Of Duluoz".
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