Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922. He had a private and Catholic early education, and he got a football scholarship to Columbia University, where he met Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and William Burroughs. Kerouac quit school his sophomore year and joined the Merchant Marine, starting the travels of his youth which would become the basis of On the Road, his second and most acclaimed novel. On the Road, published in 1957, became the most famous work of the Beat Generation of writers. It is known to be an account of Kerouac's ("Sal Paradise") travels with Neal Cassady ("Dean Moriarty"). The main characters are based on Kerouac's friends, many of them prominent Beat Generation writers like Allen Ginsberg ("Carlo Marx") and William Burroughs ("Bull Lee"). With his long, stream-of-consciousness sentences and page-long paragraphs, Kerouac sought to do no less than revolutionize the form of American prose. According to Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac typed the first draft of On the Road on a fifty-foot-long roll of paper.
On the Road gave voice to a rising, dissatisfied fringe of the young generation of the late forties and early fifties. It was after the Great Depression and World War II and more than a decade before the Civil Rights movement and the turmoil of the '60s. Yet, though it has been fifty years since the events in On the Road, the feelings, ideas, and experiences in the novel are still remarkably fresh as expressions of restless, idealistic youth who yearn for something more than the bland conformity of a generally prosperous society.
Other works by Jack Kerouac include his first novel, The Town and the City, The Dharma Bums (based on his explorations of Buddhism with friend and poet Gary Snyder), The Subterraneans, Big Sur, Visions of Cody (a densely packed, more experimental account of the events in On the Road), and Visions of Gerard (based on Kerouac's brother and childhood in Massachusetts).
Kerouac died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969, at the age of 47.
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