LOWELL — Brad Parker’s latest book took him 33 years to write — well, not really.
But the Jack Kerouac scholar and Lowell native is releasing his second biography on the famed Beatnik later this month, more than three decades after his first, and he hopes to dispel some misconceptions about Kerouac and his personal life.
During this time, Parker read Kerouac’s personal notebooks archived at the New York Public Library, indulged in other biographies of the writer, and familiarized himself with the intricacies of relationships, travel, and life. Kerouac family.
“I’m just a retiree working on my hobby, studying Kerouac,” Parker said. “I’m just a serious student of Kerouac and his writings.”
The new book, titled “Kerouac: The Man and His Visions,” is the first of two volumes in which Parker hopes to delve into the lesser-known aspects of Kerouac’s existence. The eight chapters of the biography are what Parker describes as “eight slices” of the author’s life, which deal with Kerouac’s Buddhism, love affairs, dreams, connections to socio-political events, and a period of intense geographic isolation.
Kerouac was a Lowell-born author and poet whose style became influential in the burgeoning Beat movement of the 1950s. Much of his work centered on reflections on American life and the rejection of those traditional values, as seen in 1957’s “On the Road”, his best-selling novel. He died aged 47 from alcohol-related complications.
Parker said he was truly drawn to Kerouac not just for his writing and “literary genius,” but for Kerouac’s character and life story beyond the page, as well as his personal truth woven into his text.
“Some people think Kerouac is a wild guy, like Neal Cassady (another Beat writer), but he was very inhibited and there’s this shyness in him,” Parker said. “He’s a fascinating person.”
While researching her life, Parker said she discovered discrepancies between Kerouac’s writings and her real-world experiences. During his summer as a fire watcher on Desolation Peak in Washington, Kerouac worked on several books he never published, including one titled “Four Brothers” and another titled “Ozone Park,” a reference to the Queens neighborhood of the same name, Parker mentioned.
With Kerouac’s notebooks and journals in front of him, Parker discovered an intimate portrait of the writer, which included small pencil scribbles, emotional passages about his mother, and a record of the museums, restaurants, bars, and sexual encounters that Kerouac had lived abroad.
Part of Kerouac’s intrigue, Parker said, was his ability to continue to improve his writing and excel in his craft, and his debut novel “Visions of Cody” showcases the “creative and experimental” potential that Kerouac possessed.
It was while visiting the Pollard Memorial Library – a place Parker said Kerouac frequented – in 1983 that Parker discovered Gerald Nicosia’s “Memory Babe”, a biography of Kerouac published the same year. After discovering Kerouac, having never read his writings in full, Parker had an idea.
“I took this book home and devoured it,” Parker said. “I realized he was a famous writer, he’s from Lowell, I’m a Lowellian, I’d like to be a writer. So I started writing a book about him.
In 1989 Parker published his first biography on the man titled “Kerouac: An Introduction”. Over the next three decades, the author gradually learned more about Kerouac to produce two books’ worth of material from extensive archival and research.
The release of his new biography coincides with Kerouac’s 100th birthday month, during which the city will celebrate the Lowell-born writer at various events throughout March. On Friday, the special exhibition “Visions of Kerouac” opened at the Boott Cotton Mills Gallery. The exhibition presents part of Kerouac’s original parchment for his book “On the road”, as well as personal memories, writings and unpublished photographs of the writer.
Jim Sampas, literary executor of the Jack Kerouac estate and CEO of the Kerouac Foundation, said the biography is sure to have an impact on the city, given Kerouac’s legacy and iconification.
“It’s really good that he addresses some of these things because there are so many myths that need to be corrected,” Sampas said. “The fact that he’s from Lowell and writing a biography of Jack, I think, is really significant.”
Although he has written hundreds of pages about him, Parker remains captivated by the complexity, sadness and brilliance of Kerouac’s life.
“You wonder how all these years he just carried a little notebook and kept printing everything. He was watching everything,” Parker said. “He is a great success and surrounded by tragedy.”
“Kerouac: The Man and His Visions” is due out later this month and will be available in paperback on Amazon.