Joyce Johnson, the author of the 1988 memoir “Minor Characters,” has at least two claims to fame:
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1) She was Jack Kerouac’s “girlfriend” for a little while.
2) She writes the hell out of this crazy little book.
Ms. Johnson posses a gift for description that defies description…and she was a Kerouac “girlfriend” in 1961 when she was barely twenty-one and he was famous. The rest is history.
I've spent the last year more or less immersed in the formally informal task of reading several of the best biographies of four of America's most famously famous authors:
"A Life Story" – (1969) by Carlos Baker
"A Biography" – (1985) by Jeffrey Meyers
"Look Homeward" – (1987) by David Herbert Donald
"In Search of J.D. Salinger" – (1988) by Ian Hamilton
"Kerouac: a biography" – (1973) by Ann Charters
"Kerouac: the definitive biography" – (2004) by Paul Mahers Jr.
I have enjoyed all of these books! I want to tell you about them because they are so well written and worth reading – take Jack Kerouac for instance:
I find it ironic that in 2000 (more than twenty years after his death), the scroll on which Kerouac wrote his most successful novel, “On the Road,” would sell at auction for more than two million dollars – Kerouac was broke almost all his life.
Kerouac’s story can suck the life right out of you sometimes. He was a hopeless alcoholic who never ranged far from his mother. But you have to love Kerouac and his friends…and don’t forget about Neil Cassady.
I plan to contrast these biographies and share some thoughts about the books that orbit them - like “On The Road – the original scroll,” Kerouac’s “Big Sur,” and Ms. Johnson’s memoir – plus an old review of the hard to find DVD called “What Happened to Kerouac?”
I believe these authors share some strong connections with each other; I’m just not exactly sure what those connections are right now.
The only thing I know for sure is I am going to start posting some of the old Kerouac stuff first. Maybe next Sunday morning I will probably re-post my 2007 review of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road- 50th anniversary.”