The Voice Is All

The Voice Is All

The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac

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Additional Formats
  • Ebook
  • ISBN 9781101601068
  • 512 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


A groundbreaking portrait of Kerouac as a young artist—from the award-winning author of Minor Characters

In The Voice is All, Joyce Johnson, author of her classic memoir, Door Wide Open, about her relationship with Jack Kerouac, brilliantly peels away layers of the Kerouac legend to show how, caught between two cultures and two languages, he forged a voice to contain his dualities.  Looking more deeply than previous biographers into how Kerouac’s French Canadian background enriched his prose and gave him a unique outsider’s vision of America, she  tracks his development from boyhood through the phenomenal breakthroughs of 1951 that resulted in the composition of On the Road, followed by Visions of Cody. By illuminating Kerouac’s early choice to sacrifice everything to his work, The Voice Is All deals with him on his own terms and puts the tragic contradictions of his nature and his complex relationships into perspective.


“An intense and wonderful exploration into the mind of Jack Kerouac, the hard territory and brutal experiences that produced him and his own fierce determination to become a writer….Johnson succeeds in blowing apart many of the stereotypes of Kerouac as an author and as a man.” —Dylan Foley, Chicago Tribune


“Spectacular…definitely the Kerouac book for our time…traces the birth of a literary genius and dispels many of the Kerouac myths: that he wrote from memory, not the imagination, and that he wrote spontaneously and without revising…Johnson knows how to create suspense and weave the complex lives of her characters into a narrative that rumbles along…her own voice is eloquent, her prose clear and crisp.” —Jonah Raskin, San Francisco Chronicle


“A major new biography that traces the gradual emergence of the voice that came to define Kerouac’s distinctive style of autobiographical fiction…Johnson redirects our focus to Kerouac’s writing – an aspect that has been overshadowed by his legend.” —Lauren Du Graf, The Daily Beast


“Johnson has wisely chosen to emphasize the part of Kerouac’s life all but lost in the Kerouac legend: Behind the coast-to-coast craziness, the drug- and booze-inspired flights of mysticism, the Benzedrine-fueled writing sprees, a very serious writer was at work.” —Bill Marvel, The Dallas Morning News


“[A] remarkable new biography…the final section of this book take on the urgency of a thriller reaching its climax. So closely does Johnson track Kerouac’s evolution as a writer that one senses a breakthrough right around the corner.” —John Freeman, Barnes and Noble review


“In The Voice is All, Johnson brilliantly and intimately gets beyond the Kerouac legend to the solitary soul of the man…she has infused Kerouac’s work with excitement, struggle, desperation, and love.” —Royal Young,


“Johnson, an award-winning memoirist in her own right, draws from her relationship with Kerouac, as well as Kerouac’s private papers, for an unromanticized (but deeply personal) take on a man whose conflicted, roving essence continues to resonate.” —Megan O’Grady,


“A magnificent bildungsroman biography…Johnson has poured herself into the book in the way artists to works of the imagination…more rewarding than Johnson’s inside storytelling are her insights into Kerouac’s ambitions as a writer.” —Mindy Aloff, The Virginia Quarterly Review


“Johnson proves herself to be a rigorous, knowledgeable, and penetrating biographer in this engrossing portrait of Kerouac as a divided soul…she offers exceptionally lucid coverage of his depression, alcoholism, and every significant relationship in his surging life…most valuable is Johnson’s discerning analysis of what Kerouac hoped to achieve in his by-turns exalted and anguished transmutation of experience into literature.” —Donna Seaman, ALA Booklist


“Johnson brings an outsider’s perspective to this insightful study of how Kerouac found his voice as a writer…[she] excels in her colorful, candid assessment of the evolution of [Kerouac’s] voice.” —Publishers Weekly


“A triumph of scholarship…an exemplary biography of the Beat icon and his development as a writer…[Johnson] turns a laser-sharp focus on Kerouac’s evolving ideas about language, fiction vs. truth and the role of the writer in his time…Johnson is a sensitive but admirably objective biographer.” —Kirkus Reviews


“Johnson breaks new ground in this well-written account of Kerouac’s early life…the portrait of Kerouac that emerges is one of a complicated individual, full of contradictions, who, above all else, was dedicated to his art…essential reading for anyone interested in a deeper understanding of Kerouac’s life and work.” —Library Journal