ISBN #: 978-0143123965
Page Count: 512
Copyright: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint Edition
(Taken from back cover)
Joyce Johnson brilliantly peels away layers of the Kerouac legend in this compelling book. Tracking Kerouac's development from his boyhood in Lowell, Massachusetts, through his fateful encounters with Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and John Clellon Holmes to his periods of solitude and the phenomenal breakthroughs of 1951 that resulted in his composition of On the Road followed by Visions of Cody, Johnson shows how his French Canadian background drove him to forge a voice that could contain his dualities and informed his unique outsider's vision of America. This revelatory portrait deepens our understanding of a man whose life and work hold an enduring place in both popular culture and literary history.
The interesting thing about biographies is the information you learn about a person that you may or may not have known about. I knew nothing about Jack Kerouac before reading The Voice is All ... and I'm still wondering how much I really know. The other interesting thing about biographies is that the information within is based (usually) on one person's perception of the one they're writing about. Most of the time, I take biographies with a grain of salt instead of as the absolute truth.
Joyce Johnson had a relationship with Jack. She relayed the facts: he was French-American, he lost his older brother Gerard when he was just a boy, and he was a very quiet, contemplative man. Jack never really talked about his older brother but, if Joyce paid close enough attention, certain mannerisms were evidence of Gerard's influence over Jack's life ... even years after Gerard's death.
In some ways Jack is like many other people. Others have family problems. Others have deaths in their family at a young age. Others travel around a lot. Others don't allow people to get close to them. With Jack, though, it's almost as if he took everything to heart and held it inside. He allowed situations to fester within himself and he eventually used all of those pent up emotions in his writing and poetry ... and ultimately became one of the greatest American writers of our time.
I enjoyed this biography and getting to (somewhat) know a man and writer I knew nothing about. I think others who have an interest in biographies would enjoy The Voice is All as well. Why not give it a try?
*A paperback copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.