Angelheaded Hipster: A Life of Jack Kerouac
In the fifties, the movies had James Dean and Marlon Brando. Rock 'n' roll had Elvis Presley. The American novel had Jack Kerouac. Jack Kerouac was the father of the Beat Generation and the creator of a "spontaneous bop prose" style, which embodied the riffing and improvisation techniques that were used by jazz heroes such as Charlie Parker and Lester Young. In novels like The Subterraneans, On the Road, and The Dharma Bums, Kerouac portrayed characters hungry for experience and eager to discover a new vision of life. He made the life of a writer sound exciting and, along with his Beat contemporaries, helped liberate poetry from the page and took it to places more commonly associated with music or art or comedy: the jazz club, the coffee house, the art gallery, and the concert hall. Essentially a writer with spiritual preoccupations, he helped make the discussion of religion and spirituality hip by embracing the apparent paradox that it was often the wretched and despised, the "poor in spirit", who were most open to the things of heaven. The character Sal Paradise in On the Road, searching for soul in a world that seemed to be losing its soul, was a thinly disguised portrait of Kerouac himself. Today, forty years after the publication of On the Road, there is more discussion of Jack Kerouac and his work than ever before. In Angelheaded Hipster, Steve Turner examines the life and work of the pivotal figure of the fifties' countercultural revolution, and explores the reasons why Kerouac's unique prose and his search for the truth continues to inspire new readers.
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