An annotated collection of letters exchanged between novelist Johnson (In the Night Café, 1989, etc.) and Kerouac (1922–69) during the two years (1957–58) of their stormy (and not terribly romantic) love affair. When Johnson met Kerouac in 1957, she was only 21 (Kerouac was 34), had recently left Barnard, and was living on her own while working at a dreary job in a literary agency. An aspiring novelist, she was passionately drawn to the moody, French-Canadian Kerouac, who had already published one novel but had yet to achieve the fame that he would soon win with On the Road. Although it is difficult to see (in either the letters or her annotations) what satisfaction Johnson was able to take from her relations with Kerouac—who appears as continually drunk, quite remarkably insensitive, and utterly ungrateful to his adoring young acolyte—her collection provides an intimate glimpse of the writer at just the moment when he began to achieve (and, in some sense, be ruined by) his fame as one of the leaders of the Beat Generation, and it will be welcomed by all scholars and fans of that movement.
A depressing but fascinating account of one of the sadder figures of modern American letters.