Book of Sketches

Jack Kerouac

The literary equivalent of spontaneous doodles, Jack Kerouac’s “sketches” were, by his account, “[Proof] that sketches ain’t Verse / But Only What Is.” Between 1952 and 1954, Kerouac would jot down what he saw in his surroundings in small notebooks that he carried in his shirt pocket. These poetic observations range from impromptu odes to friend and fellow poet Allen Ginsberg to the everyday surveillance of farmworkers. As Kerouac sets his Shakespearean goal of “3 works a year” and reminds himself to only write in small print when drunk, we better understand what drove the prolific author’s life and art. Unedited, the sketches appear exactly as on the days he wrote them, allowing Kerouac to give the world a posthumous window into not only what was, but also what is.