Today In History: Jack Kerouac Born
Today is Jack Kerouac’s birthday. Kerouac, a famous American novelist and poet, was born Jean-Louis Kerouac in Lowell Massachusetts to French-Canadian parents.
Kerouac is one of the major icons of the “Beat” literary movement of the 1950’s and 60’s. He was friends and peers with other luminaries like William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, though his work enjoyed more popular readership than the others.
He is best known for his novel On the Road, which he wrote in a Benzedrine-fueled frenzy on one contiguous roll of paper. The book made him one of the biggest literary celebrities of the day, and spawned countless imitations.
Kerouac, a lifelong Catholic, was also fascinated with Eastern philosophy. His works are heavily influenced by his Buddhist curiosities. He was also known for profligate drug use, drinking and unstructured, spontaneous prose style modeled after jazz music.
It is a piece of historic irony that Kerouac was considered during his life, and is still considered, the father of the Hippies, whom he despised. During the later part of his career, he became increasingly alienated from his fanbase (probably thanks to being savagely beaten by three men in New York one night, spiraled into severe alcoholism and adopted a conservative political attitude.
Kerouac died at age 47, in 1969, of an abdominal hemorrhage from drinking. While he was critically treated as a dilettante while he was actively publishing, he has since been lionized as one of American letters’ most towering figures. His major novels are still studied. As a pioneer of the Beat style, he also left a permanent footprint on the world of literature.