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Wednesday, 22 August, 2001, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Unique Kerouac archives acquired
Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac was a founder of the "Beat" Movement
The personal and literary archives of writer Jack Kerouac, who died in 1969, have been acquired by the New York Public Library.

The collection includes the writer's diaries, letters and notebooks as well as the manuscript for his celebrated novel On The Road.

Allen Ginsberg
Collection has letters from Allen Ginsberg
Dr Paul LeClerc of the New York Public Library said that the acquisition brings together the majority of Kerouac's archives, offering a unique insight into his work.

"This archive reveals in intricate detail the spirit and motives of somebody who was reaching for a new, uniquely American style of literature," he said.

The archive contains over 1,050 manuscripts and typescripts and the Library hopes that academics working on the documents will acknowledge Kerouac's role in US literature.


Kerouac, the son of French Canadians, was a founder of the Beat movement in the 1940s along with Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs.

He is considered one of North America's most influential writers.

This should give you an idea of the breadth, and the richness of his imaginary life

Isaac Gewirtz, curator Berg Collection

Isaac Gewirtz, the curator of the Berg Collection of English and American Literature where the collection will be housed, expressed his delight at the unique acquisition.

Mr Gewirtz was particularly happy that the Kerouac archive was coming to the Berg Collection as it already housed manuscripts from the writer's forbears like US poet Walt Whitman.

"Both Whitman and Kerouac are poets of the open road, using it as a metaphor for a uniquely American experience that has universal meaning," he said.


The archive also includes a fictional baseball league Kerouac started as a teenager.

The writer created the intricate summer league, which mixes fictional and famous characters and teams, while growing up in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Kerouac, who was himself a star athlete in high school, refers to the league in his private papers and in the novel Dr Sax.

The young writer used blue, orange and plain-coloured paper, index cards and the backs of business cards to draw up his imaginary six-team league.

New York Public Library
New York Public Library will hold the collection
"This should give you an idea of the breadth, and the richness, of his imaginary life,'' said Gewirtz.

Kerouac, who did not speak English fluently until his teens, kept the game going into his 30s.

The archive also contains Kerouac's harmonica collection, a brakesman's lamp he used while her was a rail worker and a tomb-shaped Valentine which he gave his mother in 1933.

A revealing diary entry from from the archive, written by the young Kerouac in 1939, says: "My name is John L. Kerouac, regardless of how little that may matter to the casual reader.''

The library says the archives will be available to scholars over the next few years.

See also:

23 May 01 | Arts
Kerouac scroll fetches $2.4m
22 Jun 01 | Film
Coppola goes On the Road
21 Dec 00 | Entertainment
10,000 Maniacs guitarist dies
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