Jack Kerouac

The son of an impoverished French-Canadian family, Jack Kerouac also questioned the values of middle-class life. He met members of the "Beat" literary underground as an undergraduate at Columbia University in New York City. His fiction was much influenced by the loosely autobiographical work of southern novelist Tom Wolfe.

Kerouac's best-known novel, On the Road (1957), describes "beatniks" wandering through America seeking an idealistic dream of communal life and beauty through jazz and drug-induced visions. The book epitomises the generation that Kerouac himself named as “beat.” It is the tale of his adventures with Neal Cassady (the character Dean Moriarty), before he dropped out of the 'Beat' scene and withdrew into alcoholism.

The Dharma Bums (1958) also focuses on peripatetic counterculture intellectuals and their infatuation with Zen Buddhism. Kerouac also penned a book of poetry, Mexico City Blues (1959), and volumes about his life with such beatniks as experimental novelist William Burroughs and poet Allen Ginsberg.