07 October 2012

On the Road with Jack Kerouac

I can't remember from which magazine I very carefully cut out of this picture of Jack Kerouac, but I have had it up in every house I've lived in for the past 20 years. I read his most famous novel On the Road, while living in London and was inspired enough to emulate one of his road trips across America with my friend David. We flew out from London, and landed in New York in November 1988. From there we drove south, through Washington, Memphis, New Orleans, Houston, El Paso (and across to Mexico for lunch) and through to San Diego in ten days. We then caught a Greyhound bus to LA, where we flew out back to Melbourne, in time for Christmas with our families. Some pictures here.
Last night I finished reading another biography about Jack, The Voice is All. The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac by Joyce Johnson. I've read several books and bios about Jack and the Beat writers, but probably none since I began seeing myself as a 'real' writer. So it was extremely interesting to read about his journey to becoming a writer.
One thing that made a big impression on me, and that I'm not sure other books have explored as well as Joyce Johnson has, is Jack's bilingualism – he grew up speaking French rather than English. His family were French Canadian immigrants to the United States. Which is quite funny, given his status as a quintessential American writer. I too grew up speaking a language other than English (the language I now write in) at home, which has added richness to my life, and hopefully my writing. As the visionary Italian film director Federico Fellini wrote, “A different language is a different vision of life". I couldn't agree more.
Next I suppose, in my Festival of Jack, is to reread On the Road. I have the Original Scroll Edition (2007) which I've yet to read, which includes everyone's real names rather than their character names...and no paragraphs or chapters. There's also the new film of On the Road, to see. Have you seen it? Have you read the book?


  1. I've never read him, and he will have to wait until after I read the latest hot book of Australian fiction.

    1. Good plan!

      To be honest I've never got through any of his other books, but I did love "On the Road" and the mythology of him, despite his terrible relationships with women.

  2. The film looks good and as you know I read the book many years ago on your recommendation.