This third Library of America volume devoted to the writings of Jack Kerouac presents three powerful works, each highlighting different aspects of his turbulent life and incandescent literary gift.
This third Library of America volume devoted to the writings of Jack Kerouac presents three powerful works, each highlighting different aspects of his turbulent life and incandescent literary gift. 'My work comprises one vast book like Proust's Remembrance of Things Past,' Kerouac wrote in a comment on Visions of Cody, 'except that my remembrances are written on the run instead of afterwards in a sick bed.'
Completed in 1952, Visions of Cody was not published in full until 1972, three years after Kerouac's death. Perhaps the most experimental of all his books, it is the other masterpiece drawn from the experiences and encounters behind On the Road, centered on an impassioned and hallucinatory portrait of his friend and idol Neal Cassady, here reimagined as Cody Pomeray. Blending the real and the imaginary, Kerouac moves beyond his early literary models into his own unique 'bop prosody,' mixing closely observed descriptions of people and places, free-form scats on everything from Denver nightlife to the filming of a Joan Crawford movie, transcribed conversation, and breathless narration of what was happening in his life as the manuscript was being written. 'What I'm beginning to discover now,' he wrote while conceiving this extraordinary book, 'is something beyond the novel and beyond the arbitrary confines of the story . . . . I'm making myself seek to find the wild form, that can grow with my wild heart.'
Written in a matter of weeks just after Christmas 1955 and published in 1963, Visions of Gerard – 'my best most serious sad and true book yet' – is a meditation on Kerouac's older brother, who died at age nine of rheumatic fever, and who became for him an emblem of innocence and saintliness. As he delves into memories of early childhood in Lowell, Massachusetts, Kerouac conjures in rich and sensuous detail the French-Canadian community in which he grew up, exuberantly sketching scenes of home and church and tavern, a vanished world recaptured in luminous prose.
The intensely focused and sometime despairing Big Sur (1962), which was composed in just ten days, chronicles a 1960 trip to California intended as a restorative return but culminating in a nightmarish breakdown that Kerouac unflinchingly describes. Populated by a cast including thinly disguised literary figures such as the poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lew Welch, Philip Whalen, and Michael McClure, Big Sur is above all a laceratingly frank self-portrait of a man who finds his mind coming undone even in the midst of inspiring natural beauty at the edge of the Pacific.
Companion Library of America volumes present Kerouac's Collected Poems and Road Novels 1957-1960.