Lonesome Traveler by Jack Kerouac

By Jack Kerouac

In his first frankly autobiographical paintings, Jack Kerouac tells the exhilarating tale fo the years while he used to be writing the books that captivated and infuriated the general public, stressed years of wandering in which he labored as a railway brakeman in California, a steward on a tramp steamer, and a hearth lookout at the crest of Desolation height within the Cascde Mountains.

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Yet of his six sons, it is this son who, in the ultimate resort, has done best even in the worldly way. This certainly should have a moral, and the moral will be underlined if I explain why my father held his opinion about me. He was fully aware of all the physical and mental limitations I had. I shall give some idea of them. First, as to my physical unfitness, I was a seven-months’ child of an ailing mother, who became worse after my birth, and could not feed me after my third month. I had to be fed on cow’s milk, which was always contaminated.

It was housed in a very impressive building along with some other military offices. The aspect was also very fine. The building stood on the Esplanade, and from its front verandah we could see the Victoria Memorial, gleaming in white marble across the Maidan. It had been originally built as the office of Lord Kitchener, when he was Commander-in-Chief in India. It had some architectural pretension, probably due to him. It had a high central block which from the front looked like a gate-house, and this block had a pediment resting on tall columns of the Etruscan order.

They were my reactions to the events I saw and the situations I had to face. Never in my life, even under the pressure of dire necessity, have I written to earn money by supplying an existing demand. On the contrary, most often I have chosen subjects in which there was no interest. For example, I could easily have made my first book a biography of Nehru. Instead, I made it the autobiography of an unknown Indian. I can guess what a biography of Nehru by me, published in 1951, could have done for me, and the reader of this book will find what my actual choice brought on me in India.

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