THE AWAKENER by Helen Weaver

THE AWAKENER

A Memoir of Kerouac and the Fifties
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Beat-era hipster and former love interest of Jack Kerouac recalls her rebellious youth in the Greenwich Village of the 1950s and beyond.

Oberlin grad Weaver moved to New York with an English degree, landed a secretarial job in publishing and found the requisite squalid NYC apartment. Her roommate happened to be friends with the Beat Generation’s pied pipers, Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Soon enough, Weaver and the handsome literary maverick Kerouac became an item. The author was clearly enamored and slightly envious of the still-penniless Kerouac’s vagabond poet lifestyle. In fact, his occupational freedom fueled her desire to transcend the workaday publishing-industry world. Kerouac also represented the antithesis of her conservative, domineering father. “Life is a dream,” Kerouac often repeated like a protective mantra. For Weaver, though, life became increasingly all too real, as her rigid nine-to-five existence clashed with Kerouac’s live-for-the-moment philosophy. When the poet’s drunken revelries got out of control, Weaver threw him out—then, naturally, regretted it. After the dissolution of their relationship, the memoir moves in inconsistent fits and starts. Weaver became a sought-after translator and had a serendipitous one-night stand with comedian Lenny Bruce in the mid ’60s. Then her life lapsed into common midlife-crisis patterns, including therapy sessions, astrology and self-help gimmickry. She discovered that despite her passion for pot-smoking and rock ’n’ roll, she could never quite escape her inborn upper-middle-class mores. In fact, she wanted Kerouac to be not only an adventurous writer but also a reliable life partner. As she discovered, you could never have Kerouac the man without the creatively self-destructive Kerouac the artist.

An evocative multidecade portrait of the Beat milieu undercut by the author’s mostly pedestrian biographical details.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-87286-505-1
Page count: 242pp
Publisher: City Lights
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2009