Archives For jack kerouac

Cool Cats: Beat Poets and their Feline Friends

For some reason, if you look back through literary history, it seems most great authors had a fondness for cats. Purrrhaps* that’s because being a writer often requires a rather cat-like existence… but more likely it’s just a case of confirmation bias. The internet loves cats, therefore there will be enough photos of authors and cats circulating online to convince us that cats are somehow muses to the greats of literature. But whichever of those options is true, certainly enough of our great writers have had close relationships with felines to make it seem as though cat-ownership is somehow a pre-requisite for literary brilliance. Continue Reading…

What the Beats can teach us about writing

The Beat Generation was not just important as a countercultural movement. We don’t just remember Jack Kerouac for sending kids on the road and accidentally birthing the hippies, or Allen Ginsberg for his peace & love messages. We remember them as literary innovators, and as such they have a lot to teach us about writing. Literature changed with the Beat Generation and it has never been the same since. Yet as time goes by, it is easy to forget what exactly they gave us. Let’s take the chance to look over some of the writing lessons handed down by the Beat writers. Continue Reading…

The Best Beat Generation Letter Collections

The writers of the Beat Generation were not just great at composing poems or producing genre-smashing novels. They were also voluminous letter-writers, corresponding over vast distances by mail. They shared ideas, gave details of their lives and thoughts, and even experimented with writing styles through the act of writing these letters. Some, like the Joan Anderson Letter, were of incalculable significance. Thankfully, they were often careful enough to save their letters, knowing that some day in the future these might be of importance. Eventually, as telephone calls became cheaper, the letters dried up. However, during the heyday of the Beat Generation, they correspondence was frequent and often stretched into thousands of magnificent words.  Continue Reading…

The Beat Generation and Mental Hospitals

The 1940s and 50s were difficult years to be non-conformist, and that was doubly true if you were a woman. The writers of the Beat Generation, as well as their friends and families, who lived bohemian lifestyles in a buttoned-up era, found that their very existence could be dangerous in those days. Whether they were driven to genuine mental illness by the shackles of a repressive society or deemed unfit for society because of their individualist life choices, many of those who fell under the Beat label ended up in the “nuthouse.” For some of them it was just a temporary stay that gave them inspiration for their art, but for others it was a deeply traumatic experience that irrevocably damaged their life. Continue Reading…

On the Road Turns 60

Jack Kerouac’s Beat classic, On the Road, turned sixty years old today. Published on 5th September, 1957, On the Road changed American literature and birthed an entire counterculture. It thrust its author into the limelight and inspired countless people to take to the road in search of their own adventures.  Continue Reading…

Kerouac at 95

Jack Kerouac was born on March 12th, 1922, meaning that today would’ve been his 95th birthday. Of course, he passed away long ago at the tragically young age of just 47. His friends, many of whom had become estranged from him in later years, outlived him, with Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs dying just a few months apart, in 1997. Even his mother outlived him.  Continue Reading…

John Sampas

John Sampas, executor of the Jack Kerouac Estate, has passed away peacefully at home in Greenwich, Connecticut. A memorial will be held in the near future.  Continue Reading…

When was ‘Beat’ First Written?

On this blog, we’ve previously discussed the surprisingly difficult question of what the Beat Generation was, and later, what the difference is between Beats and Beatniks. Yet actually pinning down the meaning of the word “Beat,” an adjective used by the likes Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William S. Burroughs in the forties and fifties, is not so difficult. Its etymology is well-documented – although, as with so much Beat lore, there are numerous errors in popular sources. It originated in “hepcat” speak, most likely passed from the underground world to the Columbia world through Herbert Huncke. Continue Reading…

Joan Anderson Letter Goes to Auction… Again

In 2014, the world of Beat Studies was rocked by the discovery of the Joan Anderson letter. Believed lost at sea until that point, the letter was the Holy Grail of our field. Its role in Beat history was considered by many as of key importance. Its influence on the literary style of Jack Kerouac was believed to be massive.  Continue Reading…

Buddhists and Dharma Bums

Sometime in the early 1950s, the Beat Generation helped bring Buddhism to the West, or at least they popularized it and expanded its influence. The world saw them as obscene hipsters who eschewed responsibility, but they viewed themselves as roamers of America and characters of a special spirituality.[1] At least for Kerouac and Ginsberg, Beat had a quasi-religious connotation.

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