Picks and Pans Review: Jack Kerouac

updated 06/25/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/1984 01:00AM

by Tom Clark

The Paris years of Hemingway, Stein, Joyce and Fitzgerald have produced a veritable library. The Bloomsbury era of Woolf and E.M. Forster has been another happy hunting ground for literary historians and biographers. Jack Kerouac and his "beat" compatriots have set off the same response; rarely does a season pass without the appearance of a new book about Kerouac and friends. When one begins to dip into the Kerouac cult, it is fascinating to discover all the interlocking relationships among such as William Burroughs, Neal Cassady, Larry Rivers, Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey, Peter Orlovsky, Gore Vidal and dozens of others. Capote's nasty comment (which deeply wounded Kerouac) about On the Road—"That's not writing, it's just...typing"—is included in this new biography, along with plenty of other critical opinions. Kerouac's last years as an unpleasant drunk get their due. This book, described by its publisher as an "album," includes many photographs, and since Kerouac was remarkably handsome, the pictures make a vivid impression. But most of them are just snapshots, and they are printed here on a soft cream paper that contributes to their murkiness. The text—Clark is a novelist and critic on the West Coast—is chronological, clearly written and efficient. (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $22.95)

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