Crowned "the King of the Beat Generation" upon publication of his landmark 1957 novel <i>On the Road</i>, Jack Kerouac became the reluctant spokesman for America's first homegrown literary movement. With friends Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, whom he had met while a student at New York's Columbia University, Kerouac turned his back on the middle-class propriety, conservatism, repression and xenophobia that had begun to taint the American experience in the boom years following the World War II. Through a rejection of materialism, travel, copious drug use and unbridled sexual license, Kerouac hoped to achieve a state of Zen grace, a beat-ness that he could reconcile with the hardwired Roman Catholicism of his Massachusetts birthplace, but a string of failed marriages, the unyielding spotlight of fame, and a gnawing dependence on alcohol soured the dream before he was 40. A prolific if uneven writer even during his darkest days, Kerouac continued to chronicle his experiences on and off the road until his untimely death in October 1969 at the age of 47. In the decades following his passing, Kerouac's legend grew through the music of such diverse artists as Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison and Tom Waits, while "beat" was repurposed in the musical movements of punk and grunge rock. Immortalized in song, feature films, stage plays and television dramas, Jack Kerouac endured posthumously as one of the most important writers of the 20th century and the patron saint of the American independent spirit.