cover image WINDBLOWN WORLD: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947–1954

WINDBLOWN WORLD: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947–1954

Jack Kerouac, . . Viking, $25.95 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-670-03341-6

Much of Kerouac's reputation rests on his first two novels, and these selections from a series of spiral notebooks into which the fledgling author constantly poured story ideas and private thoughts offer an intimate perspective on those novels' development. Anybody who's ever started a novel will grasp Kerouac's obsession with his daily word count and the periodic frustration and self-doubt. "I know that I should never have been a writer," Kerouac laments at one dark moment; in another, he wonders, "Why doesn't God appear to tell me I'm on the right track?" Historian Brinkley, author most recently of a book on John Kerry (Tour of Duty ), addresses this religious devotion in an introduction that effectively establishes the historical context, clarifying, too, just how much time Kerouac really spent refining the allegedly spontaneous On the Road. Still, there's plenty of the familiar Kerouac on hand: all-night drunken conversations with other Beat writers, casual sexual encounters and a final notebook entitled "Rain and Rivers," filled with real-life episodes in an early version of the freewheeling style that transformed Kerouac from a promising young novelist to a literary legend. These journals are an essential resource for American literature scholars, but the force of Kerouac's personality makes them an engrossing read for lay admirers. Agent, Sterling Lord. (Oct. 11)