Megan Harlan
December 18, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Barry Miles
publisher
Henry Holt and Company
genre
Biography, Nonfiction
We gave it a B+

At his peak, he wrote about 1950s American hipsters like an angel, and broodingly looked the part in his photos. How could Jack Kerouac not be the epitome of Beat generation cool? In fact, the shy author of On the Road couldn’t drive, lived primarily with his mom, supported the KKK and Joe McCarthy, and spouted homophobia yet (by many accounts) was promiscuously bisexual. His addictions to speed and alcohol transformed him into a raving paranoiac and ultimately killed him in 1969. Throughout the vivid, mercilessly insightful King of the Beats, biographer Barry Miles mediates fascinating firsthand accounts by Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Carolyn Robinson, and others to render the harrowing chasm between Kerouac’s inspired writing and destructive life. B+

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