Known for movies

Short Info

DiedOctober 21, 1969, St. Petersburg, Florida, United States
SpouseStella Kerouac, Joan Kerouac, Edie Parker
MarkOriginated the term "Beat Generation."
FactKerouac researched his family history, turning up both a family crest and the motto "Love, Work and Suffer". According to Barry Miles' 1999 biography "King of the Beats", Kerouac claimed that his family was of aristocratic lineage, who emigrated from Ireland to Cornwall in England and then to Brittany. Miles says the name "Kerouac", in Breton dialect, likely means "Beloved father", which is highly ironic as Miles claims that Kerouac suffered from an Oedipal complex in which he replaced his father as his mother's faux-"husband".
PaymentsEarned $15,000 from The Subterraneans (1960)

Jack Kerouac was born on March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts, to French-Canadian parents, Léo-Alcide Kéroack and Gabrielle-Ange Lévesque. He was the youngest of three children. His older sister, Nin, died of rheumatic fever when she was eight years old. His brother, Gerard, died of an epileptic seizure when he was nine. Kerouac was raised a Roman Catholic and attended parochial schools, including the prestigious Horace Mann School in New York City. He was an average student but excelled in sports, particularly track and field.

After graduating from high school in 1940, Kerouac enrolled at Columbia University on a football scholarship. He played for the Columbia Lions but was injured in his first season. He then turned to writing, becoming a contributor to the Columbia Daily Spectator and the campus literary magazine, Varsity. In 1942, he met Neal Cassady, a fellow student and aspiring writer who would become a major influence on his work.

Kerouac left Columbia in 1943 and joined the Merchant Marine, serving as a cook on a troop transport ship. He was honorably discharged in 1946 and returned to New York City. There he met Allen Ginsberg, another major figure in the Beat Generation, and William S. Burroughs. In 1947, he traveled to Denver to visit Cassady, who had recently been released from prison. The two men went on a cross-country road trip that would serve as the basis for Kerouac’s novel On the Road (1957).

Kerouac returned to New York and continued to associate with the Beat writers. In 1948, he moved to San Francisco, where he met Kenneth Rexroth, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and other members of the San Francisco Renaissance. He also began work on his first novel, The Town and the City (1950), which was published to mixed reviews.

In 1951, Kerouac returned to New York and married Edie Parker. The couple had a daughter, Jan, but divorced in 1953. Kerouac then embarked on a series of solo road trips across the United States and Mexico. These trips would provide material for his second novel, On the Road.

Kerouac’s literary career began to gain momentum in the 1950s with the publication of On the Road and The Dharma Bums (1958). He also wrote several other novels, including The Subterraneans (1958) and Tristessa (1960), as well as a memoir, Desolation Angels (1965). In the late 1960s, Kerouac’s health began to decline due to heavy drinking and smoking. He died of an abdominal hemorrhage on October 21, 1969, at the age of 47.

At the time of his death, Kerouac was widely considered one of the most important writers of his generation. His novels are now considered classics of American literature.

General Info

Full NameJack Kerouac
DiedOctober 21, 1969, St. Petersburg, Florida, United States
Height1.73 m
ProfessionAuthor, Actor, Poet, Painter, Screenwriter, Novelist
EducationColumbia College of Columbia University in the City of New York, Lowell High School, Horace Mann School, Columbia University, The New School


SpouseStella Kerouac, Joan Kerouac, Edie Parker
ChildrenJan Kerouac
ParentsGabrielle-Ange Lévesque, Leo Alcide Kerouac
SiblingsGérard Kerouac, Caroline Kerouac


MoviesBig Sur, On the Road, Jack Kerouac: What Happened to Kerouac?, Kerouac, the Movie, Pull My Daisy

Social profile links


#Marks / Signs
1Originated the term "Beat Generation."


The Subterraneans (1960)$15,000


1[from the original manuscript of 'On the Road'] I shambled after as usual as I've been doing all my life after people that interest me, because the only people that interest me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yearn or say a commonplace thing...but burn, burn, burn, burn like roman candles across the night.
2I'm pro-American... this country gave my French-Canadian family a good break.
3I don't know, I don't care, and it doesn't make any difference!
4You can't fight City Hall. It keeps changing its name.


1His last editor, Ellis Amburn - in his biography "Subterranean Kerouac: The Hidden Life of Jack Kerouac" - said that Kerouac claimed he lost his homosexual virginity on his first cruise with the Merchant Marine during World War II, when he was "corn-holed" by the cook. The cook later gave him a leather jacket in appreciation. After making a second trip during the War, Kerouac jumped ship during a third in order to escape the amorous advances of a bosun's mate.
2Was offered $110,000 for the screen rights to "On the Road" (approximately $750,000 in 2006 terms). On the advice of his agent Sterling Lord, he turned the offer down, holding out for a hope-for $150,000 deal with Paramount that would have involved Marlon Brando starring as Dean Moriarity. The deal fell through and the book was never sold in his life time, leaving Kerouac with bitter feelings towards his agent.
3Although he served in the Merchant Marine during World War II, like many French Canadians Kerouac felt that the U.S. should not be at war with Germany. Vichy France was an ally of Nazi Germany, and many French Candians in Quebec were pro-Germany (one of the reasons Laurence Olivier played a French Canadian trapper named Johnny who tells the Nazi officer he is a "Canadian" in Michael Powell's and Emeric Pressburger's 49th Parallel (1941) was that it was a propaganda film to promote pro-British feeling in Canada, and specifically Quebec). When Canada resorted to conscription to swell the ranks of its army, there were draft riots throughout Quebec, so intense was the feeling against the United Kingdom, which of course had subjugated New France less than 200 years before (anti-war sentiment was so great that Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King declared that only volunteers would be shipped off to Europe). Both Kerouac's father Leo and his mother Gabrielle were anti-Semites and pro-German; in fact, when Jack had a nervous breakdown and was put in the psycho ward after undergoing Navy training, Leo said that he was proud of his son, that he wouldn't fight a war concocted by Communists and Jews. Kerouac still had these attitudes until the end of his life, and his last editor, Ellis Amburn (writing in his biography "Subterranean Kerouac: The Hidden Life of Jack Kerouac"), found his attitude troublesome when they were working on Kerouac's last novel published in his lifetime, "Vanity of Dulouz". In the book, the Kerouac character laments the death of "Aryans" as his ship is torpedoing a submarine.
4Sporadically worked for movie studios summarizing scripts and writing synopses in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The jobs were infrequent; the longest stint was his initial assignment, which lasted six weeks in 1947.
5In 1958, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer paid Kerouac $15,000 (approximately $100,000 in 2006 terms) for the rights to his book The Subterraneans (1960). Kerouac used the money to buy a house in Long Island, the first he had ever owned.
6He came up with the title of his close friend William S. Burroughs's book "Naked Lunch", though he later claimed to have no memory of having done so. Kerouac was visiting Burroughs in Tangier in the mid-'50s and was drafted by Burroughs into retyping his manuscript. One story has it that the far-sighted Kerouac looked at the title of the manuscript, originally entitled "Naked Lust", and read it as "Naked Lunch." Burroughs allegedly liked the mistake so much he kept it. Ironically, food was one of the reasons that Burroughs' friendship with Kerouac began to sour. Both were dreadfully poor, but Kerouac -- who was staying rent-free with Burroughs -- would not give any money for food and ate all there was in the house, leaving none for his host. In 1957 a disgusted Burroughs eventually broke off his friendship with Kerouac, whom he now considered a selfish weakling, tied to his mother's apron strings. After the break they met only once more, in New York City in 1968 at a bar, before Kerouac went on William F. Buckley's TV talk show Firing Line (1966) (Kerouac had been an acquaintance of Buckley at the Horace Mann School). An alcoholic, Kerouac was already drunk and got drunker, and Burroughs told him not to go on the show. He did, and made a fool of himself.
7He inspired the songs "Hey Jack Kerouac" by rock band 10,000 Maniacs (from their 1987 album "In My Tribe") and "The House That Jack Kerouac Built" by rock band The Go-Betweens (from their 1987 album "Tallulah").
8Never lost his sense of patriotism for America, even at the height of Vietnam War-era cynicism. When a flag was draped over him at a late-60s party, he carefully folded it and put it away.
9Buried in his hometown; it was years before his grave received a marker. His epitaph reads "He honored life".
10Never had a driver's license, and was envious of any skilled driver, his friend Neal Cassady in particular. Apparently made his peace with driving coming back from a Mexican trip, when he had to take the wheel part-time over long stretches of desert, as he described later in "Desolation Angels".
11When World War II broke out, in a drunken haze he enlisted in the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard all on the same day. He ultimately shipped out for Naval training at Great Lakes, but soured on the whole idea after a few weeks, and started to give an unfinished manuscript more attention than anything else. Sensing a breakdown of some kind, his superiors sent him for psychological evaluation, leading to his discharge from the Navy. Later he enlisted in the Merchant Marine, serving a successful hitch and qualifying for veteran's benefits.
12Entered Columbia University (where he met Allen Ginsberg) on a football scholarship, with the apparent promise that the athletic department would find his father Leo a job in New York. Jack broke his leg during a practice game and was out for the season, while the job for Leo never materialized, and Jack and his professors rarely saw eye-to-eye. Discouraged, he began cutting classes, then finally dropped out.
13Kerouac's mother Gabrielle (called "Memère") usually had no involvement with her son's writing career. A rare exception was his novel "Pic", which he wrote much of at her bedside when Memère was ill. The original ending had the hero meeting other Kerouac characters and travelling with them; she suggested instead that young Pic meet a priest who'd help him to settle down.
14He is one of several famous and tragic figures from history to be featured on the sleeve artwork of the album "Clutching at Straws" by rock band Marillion (released in 1987). He is also referred to in the lyrics of the track "Torch Song" from the album: "Read some Kerouac and it put me on the tracks to burn a little brighter now".
15Author of "The Dharma Bums", expanded from his notes about a camping trip with writer and teacher Gary Snyder, when The Viking Press demanded a quick follow-up to "On the Road". (Snyder, who is called "Japhy Ryder" in the book, spent 13 years in Japan studying Zen Buddhism. He won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry his collection "Turtle Island".)
16Kerouac researched his family history, turning up both a family crest and the motto "Love, Work and Suffer". According to Barry Miles' 1999 biography "King of the Beats", Kerouac claimed that his family was of aristocratic lineage, who emigrated from Ireland to Cornwall in England and then to Brittany. Miles says the name "Kerouac", in Breton dialect, likely means "Beloved father", which is highly ironic as Miles claims that Kerouac suffered from an Oedipal complex in which he replaced his father as his mother's faux-"husband".
17His last marriage was to Stella Sampas, the sister of his friend and writing mentor Sammy Sampas (who died at Anzio during World War II). She had waited more than twenty years in their hometown (Lowell MA) for Jack to come back for her.




L'aura de minuit2015Video short
Big Sur2013novel
On the Road2012based on the novel by
On the Trail: Jack Kerouac in Cheyenne2010Documentary short novel
Alfred Leslie: Cool Man in a Golden Age2009Video
Book of Blues2001Short poems
The Fifties1997TV Mini-Series documentary novel "On The Road" - 1 episode
United States of Poetry1995TV Mini-Series documentary poem
Drug-Taking and the Arts1993Documentary novel "On The Road"
What Happened to Kerouac?1986Documentary works "On the Road", "Visions of Cody", "Desolation Angels", "Mexico City Blues" and "Dr. Sax and others"
Kerouac, the Movie1985Documentary works "Visions of Gerard", "Dr. Sax", "Vanity of Duluoz", "The Town and the City", "On the Road", "Desolation Angels", "Dharma Bums" and "Big Sur and others"
On the Road1962TV Series story
The Subterraneans1960novel
Pull My Daisy1959Short writer


On the Road2012writer: "Sweet Sixteen"
Professor Norman Cornett2009Documentary writer: "Pull My Daisy"
American MastersTV Series documentary performer - 1 episode, 2005 writer - 1 episode, 2005


Pull My Daisy1959ShortNarrator


Venus Blue1998Short poetry excerpts


Firing Line1968TV SeriesHimself - Guest
The Steve Allen Plymouth Show1959TV SeriesHimself - Guest
The Ben Hecht Show1958TV SeriesHimself - Author

Archive Footage

The Sixties2014TV Mini-Series documentaryHimself - Writer
Beat Generation2013TV Movie documentaryHimself
Love Always, Carolyn2011DocumentaryHimself
Magic Trip: Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place2011DocumentaryHimself
Il falso bugiardo2008Himself
Speak Out2007TV Movie
SexTV2006TV Series documentaryHimself
Beat Boys Beat Girls2003ShortHimself
The Battle for 'I Am Curious-Yellow'2003Video documentary shortHimself
New York in the 50's2000DocumentaryHimself (reads On the Road)
The Source: The Story of the Beats and the Beat Generation1999DocumentaryHimself
Bravo Profiles1998TV Series documentaryHimself
The Fifties1997TV Mini-Series documentaryHimself (uncredited)
The Works1997TV Series documentaryHimself
No More to Say & Nothing to Weep For: An Elegy for Allen Ginsberg 1926-19971997TV Movie documentaryHimself
United States of Poetry1995TV Mini-Series documentaryHimself
American Masters1994TV Series documentaryHimself
Sonic Youth: Teenage Riot1988Video shortHimself (uncredited)
The Beat Generation: An American Dream1987DocumentaryHimself
What Happened to Kerouac?1986DocumentaryHimself
Kerouac, the Movie1985DocumentaryHimself (reads On The Road to Steve Allen) (uncredited)

Source: IMDb, Wikipedia

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