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Kerouac: The Definitive Biography Hardcover – May 11, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
Maher, who teaches high school English in Jack Kerouac's hometown of Lowell, Mass., and is former editor of the Kerouac Quarterly, aggressively upholds the local hero's literary and personal reputation. The result is less critical biography than gushing fan letter, in which adulation of Kerouac's "personal courage" in adopting an unorthodox writing style trumps any serious literary analysis. Predominantly relying on Kerouac's writings as the basis for his life story raises obvious methodological questions and also loads the account with irrelevant details. More disturbingly, Maher bends over backward to clean up his subject, suggesting Kerouac's persistent expressions of racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia were somehow aberrational or else an unfortunate side effect of alcoholism, for which excuses also abound. The sympathy frequently verges on the ridiculous, as when Maher blames Allen Ginsberg and others for being more concerned about the obscenity trial over "Howl" than about Kerouac's feelings. Previous biographers come under heavy criticism, and though it's rarely stated outright, the main point of contention appears to be the possibility Kerouac had sex with other men. Maher rejects the evidence, accepting on its face Kerouac's claim to have slept with hundreds of women; presented with firsthand testimony from Gore Vidal, he dismisses the account as "sodomous." This hero worship contributes little, if anything, to the debate over the beat generation icon's literary merits. 24 b&w photos not seen by PW.
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Tune in, all you desolation angels and dharma bums, and turn on to Paul Maher's jazzy bio of Kerouac (Vanity Fair)
A useful piece in a difficult puzzle.... sheds new light on a writer of considerable interest. (Eric C. Shoaf Library Journal)
Fit testimony to a tumultuous life. (Bob Trimble The Greenville News)
Maher brings Kerouac to life as a fascinating but fallible man and artist who reflected and shaped his times. Like the many road trips Kerouac traveled, it's a worthy trip. (The Daily News)
Maher takes a riveting look at the forces that shaped Kerouac's developement into the original hipster artist. (Smoke)
Maher succeeds on many levels and nails the advertised 'definitive biography.' (Gene Sapakoff Charleston Post and Courier)
Maher has unearthed a plethora of fascinating new information. He is, without question, one of the new leaders in interpreting the life of this literary legend whose reputation grows daily. (Douglas Brinkley, Professor of History, Tulane University and editor of Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac (1947-1954))
Thoroughly researched and worthy biography... Kerouac is an engaging mix of anecdote and archive. (Ron Butlin Times Literary Supplement)
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