Leo Robson

Typecasting

The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac

By

Viking 512pp £20.58 order from our bookshop

On the Road

By

Joyce Johnson, the author of Minor Characters, an elegant memoir of New York life in the 1950s, presents her new biography of Jack Kerouac as a distinctive contribution to our – that is, Kerouac biography readers’; Kerouac readers are too myth-drunk to care – understanding of the writer. Well, she would, wouldn’t she? Apart from anything else, she is offering her book to a saturated market and an exhausted readership, less than a decade after the publication of Paul Maher’s Kerouac: The Definitive Biography. Johnson doesn’t acknowledge Maher, but it wouldn’t be too presumptuous to recognise a note of scepticism, or evidence of needling, in the sentence: ‘For many years, I waited for a definitive biography of Kerouac to appear.’ Rather than entering the race, Johnson argues that there’s no race to run: ‘I have come to wonder, especially in the process of writing this book, whether there can be such a thing as a definitive biography.’

Follow Literary Review on Twitter