The Last Days of Jan Kerouac: A Mourner’s Tale

A chapbook by Gerald Nicosia

Nobody is better qualified to write Jan’s Kerouac’s story than Gerald Nicosia.
His deep knowledge of her life, his insight and historical depth plus deep compassion make him the ideal witness.” 
— David Meltzer

 

Beat biographer Gerald Nicosia knew Jan Kerouac for at least the last fifteen years of her life and has written an excerpt “The Last Days of Jan Kerouac,” of a larger biography to reprise Jan’s literary career and life as the only biological progeny of her famous father, Jack Kerouac.

Includes Author’s Note–This edition was brought out to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Jan’s death. It is being published in its present form without notes or sources. It is a 53-page chapbook containing his writings so far in a biography entitled, “Kerouac Princess: The Life and Work of Jan Kerouac.”

Jan  Kerouac died in 1996 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, right after she had had an operation removing her spleen.

Despite receiving positive reviews for her two published novels, like her famous father, she did have her detractors.

From a review and interview with her in the New York Times: “I couldn’t get into Jan Kerouac’s books. They were apprentice works. It was obvious she had talent, but she needed somebody to show her the way. It never happened.

“Ernest Hebert is a professor of English at Dartmouth College.”

In addition to working as her literary agent, trying to get her third novel, Parrot Fever, placed with a publisher, Nicosia eventually saw himself as a writing coach for Jan.

“I received rejection after rejection on Jan’s manuscript, and some of them were brutal. Editors not only wondered if Jan knew where she was going in Parrot Fever, some of them also wondered if she even had anything else worth saying after telling her sad tale of being Jack’s daughter. A long process then commenced between us. in which I evolved from Jan ‘s literary agent to her writing coach. I suggested she create an outline, to make sure that the novel did stay on track, and I began suggesting scenes the novel needed in order to have the impact Jan sought. In fact, this coaching would go on till the very end of her life, as she finally circled in toward completion of the manuscript, almost four years later.”

Her fatal problems with her spleen were related to her kidney failure, which occurred in 1991. She had been on daily self-dialysis because of her serious issues with her kidneys’ malfunctioning.

Before moving to Albuquerque, Jan lived briefly in Marin, near author Nicosia, who became a mentor and her champion in her battles with the Kerouac Estate.

A lot of the description here deals with her difficulties in obtaining her lawful share of her father’s estate, which ballooned to over twenty million dollars some fifty years after Jack Kerouac’s death in 1969

Cover of "The Last Days of Jan Kerouac"

Cover of Chapbook

 

Jan was the author of  three novels:

  • Baby Driver (1981)
  • Trainsong (1988)
  • Parrot Fever (1992–93, unpublished)

 

According to Google Books, ‘This book deals with the final few years of Jan Kerouac’s life when she was working on her last novel Parrot Fever and fighting for rights to her father Jack Kerouac’s estate.”

 

This chapbook as a special edition may be available from the author. His email address is gerald@geraldnicosia.com.

Gerald Nicosia will be reading from the manuscript “Kerouac Princess” on March 14th, at 7 pm, Depot Bookstore and Cafe, 87 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley, CA.

Addendum: Video of Jan Kerouac talking about her father.

From Wikipedia:

Gerald Nicosia (November 18, 1949 in Berwyn, Illinois) is an author, poet, journalist, interviewer, and literary critic.

Photo of the author with Jan Kerouac

Author Nicosia with Jan Kerouac

He received a B.A. and an M.A. in English and American Literature, with Highest Distinction, in English, from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1971 and 1973, respectively.

He has written book reviews for the past 25 years for many major American newspapers including The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times.

Nicosia is probably best known as a biographer of Jack Kerouac. He has also been an advocate and supporter of the late Jan Kerouac, Jack’s estranged daughter.

In 2001 Nicosia’s Home to War was published. The book covers the problems faced by Vietnam Veterans returning to an ungrateful nation. It also discusses the battle to stop the use of Agent Orange. [1]

In January 2009, Nicosia edited and published the collection Jan Kerouac: A Life in Memory, containing photos and written essays and remembrances about her.

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About Carl Macki

lives in Fairfax, CA.
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