Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century

Noodlebrain. 2019. 189p. ISBN 9780578401409. pap. $24.95. LIT
Of the many biographies of Beat writer Jack Kerouac (1922–69), Nicosia’s Memory Babe remains the most compelling. This new book, however, is not so much about the novelist as about a long-running legal battle with the Kerouac Estate, waged by Kerouac’s daughter Jan and his nephew Paul Blake Jr., with support from Nicosia, over a forged will. Nicosia also accuses John Sampas, the estate’s executor, of damaging Kerouac studies by selling off items in the archive to private buyers, thus depriving scholars of access to them. While Nicosia acknowledges that readers benefited from a large number of Kerouac’s unpublished works released on Sampas’s watch, he criticizes Sampas for his choice of editors, claiming they were selected for their loyalty rather than for their scholarship. He further charges Sampas with blacklisting him from academic conferences and with censoring his work by insisting that authors seeking the Kerouac Estate’s cooperation remove any references to Nicosia from their publications. A generous selection of photos and a useful time line are included.
VERDICT Nicosia provides a detailed, well-documented account of what is loosely referred to in Kerouac circles as “The Kerouac Estate Controversy.” While a fascinating read, this will not win everyone over to Nicosia’s viewpoint. Sampas’s death in 2017 perhaps offered some hope that the controversy would smolder, but this publication promises to fan the flames.
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