From Library Journal
Having issued over 50 volumes devoted to contemporary American authors and genres, the "Understanding Contemporary American Literature" series, under the direction of Matthew J. Bruccoli, continues to provide useful guides for students and general readers. Following Edward Foster's broader work, Understanding the Beats (LJ 3/1/92), Theado's more focused study examines Kerouac's books in the order in which they were written, as opposed to their publication order or their place in Kerouac's "Duluoz legend"Aan approach that makes it easier to trace the development of major themes and motifs and to chart Kerouac's artistic growth as he experiments with language and technique. Making good use of Kerouac's recently published correspondence, Theado's analyses of Kerouac's major themes are generally on target. But too much of the book is devoted to summary. Whitt is much better at integrating summary and analysis in her graceful study of Naylor's work (although, to be fair to Theado, taking on Kerouac's massively diverse corpus is the more formidable task). Examining each of Naylor's novels in order of publication (through her 1998 The Men of Brewster Place), she perceptively comments on Naylor's major themes, her use of symbolism, the development of her characters, and her critical reputation. She also explores Naylor's literary influencesAthe Bible, Dante, Shakespeare, African American folklore, and mythology. Whitt's scholarship, presented in clear, vivid prose, is perfect for the readers this series hopes to attract, though more knowledgeable readers will also benefit from her keen insights into one of America's most talented novelists. Like all series volumes, these works include primary and briefly annotated secondary bibliographies.AWilliam Gargan, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., CUNY
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"Theado's approach encompasses just the right amount of biography, stylistic analysis, and fluent thematic interpretation to show that Kerouac opened new territory for American writers and did indeed succeed 'in making something new.'"--Booklist
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