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beat generation

beat generation

Jean-Louis Lebris de (Jack) Kerouac (1922-1969), American writer,

experimented with spontaneous autobiographical fiction chronicling his travels into the American West. He is known as the father of the Beat Generation.

Rambling. Wandering. Overflowing. Like his fiction, Jack Kerouac covered a great deal of territory in a short period of time. Known as the father of the Beat Generation, Kerouac's freewheeling life on the road and his chronicles of that life paved the way for the youth counter-culture of the 1960s.

Born March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts, Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac was the son of a French-Canadian printer. Kerouac, who wanted to be a writer from his earliest childhood, did not speak a word of English until he was five years old. He had an older brother, Gerard, who died at age nine, and an older sister Caroline. At age 11 Kerouac began writing adolescent novels and fictionalized newspaper accounts of horse racing, football, and baseball.

A gifted athlete, Kerouac was recruited by Columbia University for the football team. At age 17 he went off to Horace Mann High School in New York to boost his grades and his weight in preparation for Columbia. In 1940 Kerouac arrived at Columbia. In his second game as a freshman Kerouac returned a kick 90 yards, but on his next return he broke his leg. The injury freed him to pursue his true passion - literature.

During this period, Kerouac once bragged, he set a Columbia record for cutting classes. The young writer studied the rolling style of Thomas Wolfe and plunged deep into the New York street scene. In 1941, his leg healed, Kerouac had a falling out with Columbia's football coach. When he left school Jack Kerouac took his first road trip, to Washington, D.C. Kerouac pumped gas for a while in Connecticut, where his family had moved; worked briefly as a sports reporter for the Lowell Sun when his family returned there; and found himself a scullion on the S. S. DORCHESTER bound for Greenland. Two days after that trip Kerouac was back at Columbia for a second, short stay. In 1943 he joined the Navy, but was honorably discharged as a discipline problem after six months. Kerouac spent the war years working as a merchant seaman and hanging around Columbia with free-thinking Bohemians, including William Burroughs, Lucian Carr, Edie Parker, and Allen Ginsburg. He wrote two novels during the war, The Sea Is My Brother and And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks, with Burroughs.

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