Jack Kerouac was one of America's great writers of the latter half of the 20th century, yet he endured a life characterized by persistent hardship and disillusion. Leading Kerouac scholar Paul Maher Jr. targets the writer's embattled insight of self as central to his life and work. He reveals how Kerouac's troubled interactions with alcohol, drugs, and spirituality stamped its importance on his autobiographical prose and poetry and created a singular language that united thoughts on the human condition and spiritual liberation. Becoming Kerouac: A Writer In His Time affixes Kerouac's life and art in a fresh way, giving readers a rich perspective from which to understand this 20th-century literary genius.
Using unpublished archival material, Becoming Kerouac focuses on the writer's critical formative years --1940 to 1957-- to demonstrate his growth as a novelist and poet. Maher contends that Kerouac developed his singular language to capture human consciousness as it never had before. His futilities catapulted American literature to reflect its restless post-World War II anxieties. Narrating the events that comprised Kerouac's life, biographers have long struggled to illustrate his complexness and the contradictions that shaped his determinations and dogged his relationships. But without consideration of the writing, the troubles in life fail to reveal their deeper resonances by skillfully analyzing the work while tracing the events. Maher achieves a full portrait, revealing struggles that problematize his work. Becoming Kerouac fuses Kerouac's life and art to comprehend this misunderstood literary genius.