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Kerouac, Jack

dream experience books dean

(US, 1922–69)

Coming to prominence at the time of James Dean and Elvis Presley, it probably did Kerouac's literary career no harm that he possessed the dark rugged looks of a screen idol. He coined the term Beat Generation, whose creed Dig Everything! was an outright rejection of the Squares stuck in the rat race with their phoney American Dream and their decent moral values. The bible of the Beats was On the Road (1957), Kerouac's second novel, actually written in 1951. Narrated in the first person by Sal Paradise, it features Dean Moriarty as the wild-man hero, roaming across America in his restless quest for kicks, fuelled by booze, drugs, and sex. The book caught the mood of rebellious youth and inspired a thousand road-movies. Kerouac famously wrote his books very fast—in a few weeks, sometimes days, even—and out they poured: The Dharma Bums (1958), The Subterraneans (1958), Desolation Angels (1960). Together they constitute his search for intense experience as a means of self-exploration (the oldest American Dream of all), for which Buddhism seemed to provide some answers, filling the spiritual void of a materialistic society. Rambling and episodic, lacking plot and structure, these are slabs of raw experience which disregard literary ground rules, comparable in style to free-form jazz improvisation. In his preface to Big Sur (1962), reflecting in the hazy aftermath of the Beat movement, Kerouac says that all his books are just chapters in the whole work … the whole thing forms one enormous comedy.

William Burroughs, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin. See UNITED STATES OF AMERICA  TH

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