Burning Furiously Beautiful The True Story Of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road


Burning Furiously Beautiful  – The True Story Of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road

Paul Maher Jr. & Stephanie Nikolopoulos

I head to wait a long time to finally get a copy of Burning Furiously Beautiful, especially since I was determined to wait for the print edition (the ebook one was published a bit earlier). Haven’t regretted it though, as it comes with some very nice cover artwork, and is designed and laid out quite old-fashioned, so the packaging of the book is very befitting of a book about Jack Kerouac –good choice Paul and Stephanie!

Of course I (and a lot of other people) have been fed bits of information in the lead-up to the publication via Stephanie Nikolopoulos’ very fine and interesting blog http://stephanienikolopoulos.com/ and the books’s Facebook page wetting my appetite and testing my patience for some time.

I have to say that even for somebody like myself who’s read most of the important biographies and other books about him, as well as (almost) all of his novels and poetry collections, Burning Furiously Beautiful contains quite a lot of information I wasn’t aware of before. Of course I was familiar with a lot of the things told about in here, but the book managed to astound me repeatedly and there were numerous times when I thought, ‘well, I didn’t know that.’

Additional insight is offered repeatedly throughout the book in boxes marked ‘Spotlight’ (also a nice nod to Kerouac’s father’s Leo’s publication of the same name, if I remember right, from way back in the 1930’s) – in them you find information about certain places, time periods are car or even typewriter companies. Which is certainly a first in Jack Kerouac biographies and definitely a nice touch.

Which also brings me to what is perhaps the biggest appeal of the book, the brilliant evocation of the 1930’s/’40’s and ‘50’s. I assume that is one point holding an appeal to a lot of people infatuated with Kerouac’s life story, it certainly is for me. And reading the book did bring back that fascination over and over again.

But it also shows honestly, without passing much of a judgment the flaws and bad decisions in Kerouac’s, Neal Cassady’s and Allen Ginsberg’s bahavior. I have to admit that there were numerous occasions throughout the book when I thought, ‘Oh Jack, what did you do that for?’. As for Neal Cassady, I have to say, and that’s probably stating the obvious, that his flaws were even more numerous and troublesome. And we all know how (early and disgracefully) both man’s life ended.  So I guess I am probably  a bit more judgmental that the authors are.

The other thing I noticed repeatedly, is that I always have been much more interested in Kerouac’s description of actual events and the life ‘On The Road’ than all his (and even more Allen Ginsberg’s talk) about things like ‘the shrouded stranger’ or ‘the snake’ – I am just not that much into mystical things, so descriptions of the times riding on the back of a pick-up truck through the Midwest are infinitely more interesting to me (and always have been).

So, if you, like me have read books about Jack Kerouac before I can heartily recommend getting your hands on a copy of Burning Furiously Beautiful (and make that a printed copy please) for the information and the additional context provided in it. And if you haven’t read anything about him, it’s high time you did – and Burning Furiously Beautiful is a good starting point indeed.

6 Responses to “Burning Furiously Beautiful The True Story Of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road”
  1. Thank you for this lovely review! I know you are quite knowledgeable about Kerouac so it’s pleasing to know that even you learned some new things.

    Credit for the cover design goes to Igor Satanovsky, who is a poet himself and studied with Allen Ginsberg.

  2. Thank you for your astute review and kind words and coverage!

  3. Katherine C. Mead-Brewer says:

    I just wanted to let you know that I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award 🙂 For more information on the award, please visit my most recent post: http://howlinghowl.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/the-versatile-blogger-award-huzzah/

    Thanks again for your sharing your thoughts and your writing!

    • J Haeske says:

      Thanks (again!) Katherine for your support, I am abroad for the rest of this week so I won’t be able to look into this in more detail and/or respond properly until next week. I’ll be in touch. Thanks! J

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