"To know that nothing matters at all
To know there's no real difference
between the rich and the poor
To know that eternity is neither drunk
nor sober, to know it young
and be a poet..."
- from "Skid Row Wine"
Jean-Louis Kerouac on March 12, 1922 in the working class town of
Lowell, Massachusetts. The son of French-Canadian parents and the
youngest of three siblings, this American author spoke a French
dialect called "Joual" before ever uttering a word of English.
Jack attended Columbia University on a football scholarship, however,
the coach refused him playing time and this, among other things,
caused the budding author to drop out of the University. Failure
seemed to follow Kerouac from college to the military, who refused
him entrance. From there, he opted to join the Merchant Marines
and spent his off time wandering New York with the core of what
would come to be known as the Beats. This core included William
S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr and the spontaneous, carefree
Neal Cassady. During the early fifties, Jack wandered America after
his crowd of friends, writing one unpublished novel after the other
and hauling them around in a worn out back pack. It is around these
travels that Kerouac's novels are based. Finally, in 1957, On
The Road, by far Kerouac's best known novel was published, marking
him as a tremendous literary success. But years of rejection had
scarred Kerouac and left him bitter towards the public who expected
him to become the epitome of young and Beat. After the publication
of On The Road Kerouac published many more of his earlier
novels, becoming more and more popular. Fame, however, did not sit
well with Jack and he found himself in the clutches of alcoholism
as he tried to live up to his wild ON THE ROAD image. Literary critics
were not taking his writing seriously, adding more pressure to Jack
and as the fifties
continued, he fell further and further into alcoholic helplessness.
In 1969, his health worn and ravaged by his drinking, Jack Kerouac
diedin his home in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was 47 years old.