Although the ""authorized"" (further papers and letters) biography of Kerouac will not appear until next fall, Mrs. Charters is well ahead and it would be hard to think that a better book will follow. Hers is informed not only by the short period in which she knew him, the longer one in which she knew all of his claque, but also by sympathy which never distorts the honesty of her approach. Certainly with Kerouac, who wrote himself on every page of his eighteen books, we already know him well -- the boy Romantic who, under the influence of Thomas Wolfe, started out by hoping to ""write a huge novel explaining everything to everybody"" even if everything never amounted to much more than himself. The closest he came to it was On the Road, certainly his best and most successful book, even if by the time it appeared -- years and revisions later -- he was just about through. And we know his friends -- Burroughs, particularly in the early years, Ginsberg (who will contribute a ""generous"" introduction) and the whole later group of California poets. But there were really only two primary figures in his life -- Memere, the mother to whom he returned continually (""I keep falling in love/with my mother"") for psychic and financial support. And Neal Cassady, that dominant, ambivalent figure who was present in so many of the books -- his ""blood brother"" and perhaps something more. They died a year apart. Indeed we know him only too well: the young man whose blue canvas crepesoles never became the seven league boots of his aspirations; the lonesome traveler of that endless roadshow of ""lushing and barbitrating,"" of girls who became junkies and prostitutes, of writing and nonwriting with a kind of hectic ""instinct and innocence"" and carelessness (""dropout grammar""), the bravura dreamer who failed to convert that ""lost dream of being a real American man"" into the reality thereof. It's all there -- that sad, messy but ultimately coherent life which if nothing else became a lifestyle.
Pub Date: March 22, 1973
Page Count: -
Publisher: Straight Arrow Books (625 Third Street, San Francisco, California 94107)