Writer, born in Lowell, Massachusetts, USA. He studied at Columbia University (1940–2), and served in the merchant marine (1942–3) and the navy (1943). Later he studied at the New School for Social Research (1948–9). He lived with his mother in Lowell, held a variety of jobs, and travelled throughout the USA and Mexico. The publication of On the Road (1957), a semi-autobiographical tale of his wanderings with Neal Cassady, instantly established his reputation as a spokesman for the Beat Generation. His friends, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs Jr, were strongly supportive when conservative critics of the day were upset by the subject matter of the book and by what Kerouac called his ‘spontaneous prose’. Although his new-found fame helped to promote his previously unpublished books, he was profoundly disturbed by his loss of privacy. He lost his gift for high-speed writing, drank heavily, and tried to escape his notoriety by living in California. His last major work, Big Sur (1962), described the price he paid for success, and he lived out his final years back in Lowell with his mother. An earlier play, Beat Generation, written in 1957 but shelved after several rejections, was rediscovered in a Jersey City warehouse in 2004. Published in 2005, the book details a day in the drink and drug-fuelled life of Kerouac's alter ego, Jack Duluoz.
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