This companion volume to a New York Public Library exhibition traces Jack Kerouac's tumultuous and often traumatic journey from his working-class boyhood in Lowell, Massachusetts, to New York City, where he, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs would become the fathers of the Beat movement, and beyond. Drawing on journals, diaries, manuscripts, and typescripts in the Library's Jack Kerouac Archive--material never before seen by the general public, and only a very small proportion of which has been seen even by scholars--Beatific Soul explores Kerouac's evolution as a writer and his spiritual passage from Christianity to Buddhism and back again.
The author's childhood traumas and epiphanies, his family and literary influences, his early writings, his literary and artistic theories, and his spirituality are fashioned into a compelling portrait of this purest of writers and most conflicted of men, who wanted only to "write a huge novel explaining everything to everybody." Although Kerouac claimed to have written On the Road in the three weeks it took him to type the famous scroll, the text of the published novel emerged, in fact, from a lengthy creative process, which here receives detailed analysis. Illustrated throughout with more than 125 reproductions of diaries, journals, typescripts, and paintings by Kerouac, as well as family photographs and striking portraits of Kerouac and his contemporaries, Beatific Soul is a fitting tribute to its subject on the 50th anniversary of his pioneering and best-known work.