From Publishers Weekly
Much of Kerouac's reputation rests on his first two novels, and these selections from a series of spiral notebooks into which the fledgling author constantly poured story ideas and private thoughts offer an intimate perspective on those novels' development. Anybody who's ever started a novel will grasp Kerouac's obsession with his daily word count and the periodic frustration and self-doubt. "I know that I should never have been a writer," Kerouac laments at one dark moment; in another, he wonders, "Why doesn't God appear to tell me I'm on the right track?" Historian Brinkley, author most recently of a book on John Kerry (Tour of Duty
), addresses this religious devotion in an introduction that effectively establishes the historical context, clarifying, too, just how much time Kerouac really spent refining the allegedly spontaneous On the Road.
Still, there's plenty of the familiar Kerouac on hand: all-night drunken conversations with other Beat writers, casual sexual encounters and a final notebook entitled "Rain and Rivers," filled with real-life episodes in an early version of the freewheeling style that transformed Kerouac from a promising young novelist to a literary legend. These journals are an essential resource for American literature scholars, but the force of Kerouac's personality makes them an engrossing read for lay admirers.
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From School Library Journal
Adult/High School–These entries cover Kerouac's mid-20s, when he was completing his first novel, The Town and the City
, and beginning what were to become Dr. Sax
and On the Road
. Much of the book is devoted to issues of writing–character, plot, style–and a daily obsession with word count that any writer will appreciate. Discussions of favorite authors like Céline, Twain, and Dostoyevsky highlight some influences, and Kerouac shows his early iconoclastic tendencies through an almost rampant hatred of academics and the literary establishment. Anecdotes about partying with Allen Ginsburg and William S. Burroughs, the New York jazz world, and finding a girlfriend are peppered throughout. The final section is devoted to the cross-country trip made with Neal Cassady and others that inspired On the Road
. These narratives of the landscapes of the U.S. and Mexico are hauntingly beautiful and contain hints of the quasi-spontaneous style that made both Kerouac and the Beat movement so different and so popular. The introduction, notations, and index are invaluable to those less familiar with the time period or Kerouac's life. But the real charm of this title is in his words; seeing this young, brilliant author develop and continually push himself toward greatness is gripping and astonishing. The reality of Kerouac proves far more moving and interesting than the bad-boy image.–Matthew L. Moffett, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale