50 years after On the Road, another round of Jack Kerouac buzz. I plan to keep quiet about it myself, but he was my first literary hero. As a young man, I felt a kinship not so much with his writing, which I collected, but with that sadness--that void, to use a favourite Beat word--between him and his world. As for the counter-culture that first valorized then abandoned him, Kerouac was already out of it by the end of the 50s. He'd always been essentially an observor, letting Neal Cassady and others operate out there on that mad edge (mad another Beat staple). The world so easily passed him by.
As brilliantly documented in Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (a must-read for anyone interested in the 60s), when Kesey and the Dead and company drove their bus on a pilgrimage to Kerouac in '68 or so, I forget when it was, they found in Kerouac a drunk, a loony right-winger dependent on his mother. I remember, too, the pics in Rolling Stone of his funeral--Ginsberg and Corso and one or two others in the rain at Lowell, Mass.
I see him now as an innocent, a Quebec/Lowell boy (McGarrigle territory) looking for the right brand of holiness, which he never found.
For the goods on Kerouac, read anything by Ann Charters, especially her biography of J.K.