The Voice is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac

National Book Critics Circle Award Winner for Minor Characters

PW's Top 10: Literary Essays & Criticism 

Johnson’s biography of Kerouac will focus on the tremendous influence of the very insular French Canadian immigrant culture on Kerouac’s life and writing, on his struggle to find his voice, and on the women in his life. It is the first biography to work from the journals and abandoned manuscripts in the Kerouac archive. It will, in particular, explore the psychological dynamics of the relationship Kerouac had with his mother, covering his life from boyhood up to 1951, the year he wrote On the Road. 

Johnson, who first met Kerouac over fifty years ago, has a unique angle on the story, and will focus less on recounting Kerouac’s escapades and adventures and more on exploring his dualities and the influences that shaped his unique and unparalleled voice and character.

Visit her website:

Praise for The Voice is All:

"Johnson has taken Kerouac off the road and into the library, and shown us a scholarly and erudite man of letters, able to absorb the work of writers he admired." -- Washington Post

"A triumph of scholarship." -- Kirkus (starred)

"Johnson brings an insider’s perspective to this insightful study . . . [she] excels in her colorful, candid assessment of the evolution of . . . his true voice." -- PW (starred)

"This is quite simply the best book about Kerouac and one of the best accounts of any writer's apprenticeship that I have read. And it should generate a serious reconsideration of Kerouac as a classical, because hyphenated, American writer, one struggling to synthesize a doubled language, culture, and class. It's also a terrific read, a windstorm of a story." – Russell Banks, author of Lost Memory of Skin 

"Humbly framed as a sketch of the early Kerouac finding his voice up to the writing of On the Road and Visions of Cody, Joyce Johnson's knowing and intimate The Voice is All delivers the most ambitious of biographical results. She restores dignity and intellect to her subject, and gives her readers access to the poignant and complex young man behind all of that charismatic beat prose." – Brad Gooch, author of Flannery: A Life of Flannery O’Connor 

“To read The Voice is All is at once exhilarating and heartbreaking.  This is the definitive work on Kerouac, alive on every page; it is also yet another stunning achievement for Johnson herself, one of our most gifted, versatile and powerful writers.” – Ann Douglas, author of The Feminization of American Culture

“Joyce Johnson brings her immense narrative gifts to this portrait of Jack Kerouac, in which she deftly bridges the cultural and psychological elements of his formative years to the haunting themes and preoccupations of his novels. In these pages, there is an intimacy of knowledge which renders previous hagiographies and celebrity-worship treatises of Kerouac's life null and void -- and it's about time!  This is an indispensably honest book about an inimitable American writer, composed by an inimitable American writer.” – Howard Norman, author of What Is Left the Daughter 

“With eloquence and a wealth of detail, Joyce Johnson chronicles Kerouac's false starts, switchbacks, and re-tunings on his path to a fiction of sheer energy.  This remarkable portrait of his early years gives a close view of the intense process of one writer's development.” – National Book Award Finalist Joan Silber, author of The Size of the World

“Joyce Johnson has long been one of our most dependably intelligent, honest writers; and this biography of Jack Kerouac, the product of a lifetime of sifting truth from myth and ruminating about the subject, is arguably her best book.  There is a maturity, wisdom and compassion here that puts to shame most literary biographies.” 

- Phillip Lopate    

"With The Voice Is All, Joyce Johnson has vaulted from memoir to biography, clearing every hurdle with a portrait of young Jack Kerouac that is as beautifully written as and even more enlightening than her classic Minor Characters. She illuminates the period, brings nuance and new information to twice-told tales, and recasts Kerouac from a beat to a writer. This is the way literary biography ought to be done and rarely is: a revelation.”  – Gary Giddins, author of Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams

Copyright Irene Skolnick Literary Agency 2016