Jack Kerouac (1922 – 1969) was an American novelist and poet of French-Canadian descent, who is now considered a literary iconoclast and a pioneer of the Beat Generation alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. His method of spontaneous prose and his themes including Buddhism, Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, drugs, poverty, and travel made him an underground celebrity and a ‘founder’ of the hippie movement. In 1969, at age 47, Kerouac died from an abdominal haemorrhage caused by a lifetime of heavy drinking. Since his death, Kerouac's literary prestige has grown, and several previously unseen works have been published.
His wit and wisdom can be discovered in this election of quotes:
'What's in store for me in the direction I don't take?'
'[...]the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”’
'Down on the lake rosy reflections of celestial vapor appeared, and I said, “God, I love you” and looked to the sky and really meant it. “I have fallen in love with you, God. Take care of us all, one way or the other.” To the children and the innocent it's all the same.'
'One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.'
'Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.'
'Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry.'
'There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.'
'My witness is the empty sky.'
'I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till I drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.'
'It all ends in tears anyway.'
'The only truth is music.'
'I have lots of things to teach you now, in case we ever meet, concerning the message that was transmitted to me under a pine tree in North Carolina on a cold winter moonlit night. It said that Nothing Ever Happened, so don't worry. It's all like a dream. Everything is ecstasy, inside. We just don't know it because of our thinking-minds. But in our true blissful essence of mind is known that everything is alright forever and forever and forever. Close your eyes, let your hands and nerve-ends drop, stop breathing for 3 seconds, listen to the silence inside the illusion of the world, and you will remember the lesson you forgot, which was taught in immense milky way soft cloud innumerable worlds long ago and not even at all. It is all one vast awakened thing. I call it the golden eternity. It is perfect. We were never really born, we will never really die. It has nothing to do with the imaginary idea of a personal self, other selves, many selves everywhere: Self is only an idea, a mortal idea. That which passes into everything is one thing. It's a dream already ended. There's nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be glad about. I know this from staring at mountains months on end. They never show any expression, they are like empty space. Do you think the emptiness of space will ever crumble away? Mountains will crumble, but the emptiness of space, which is the one universal essence of mind, the vast awakenerhood, empty and awake, will never crumble away because it was never born.'
'Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.'
'What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.'
'I woke up as the sun was reddening; and that was the one distinct time in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn't know who I was - I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I'd never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside, and the creak of the old wood of the hotel, and footsteps upstairs, and all the sad sounds, and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and really didn't know who I was for about fifteen strange seconds. I wasn't scared; I was just somebody else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost.'
'My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.'
'Will you love me in December as you do in May?'
'The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream.'
'A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.'
'I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness.'
'The best teacher is experience and not through someone's distorted point of view.’
'Don't use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.'
'Happiness consists in realizing it is all a great strange dream.’
'Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together; sophistication demands that they submit to sex immediately without proper preliminary talk. Not courting talk - real straight talk about souls, for life is holy and every moment is precious.'
'I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.'
'Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.'