The Voice is All by Joyce Johnson is an in depth exploration of not only Jack Kerouac’s writing, but his life as well. I’m not sure how many of this generation knows Jack. I had never heard of him, and after reading this, not sure I wanted to know so much of him. It touches a lot on his sexuality, his tendency to be attached to his mother, and his writing. The author writes with great love, awe, and candor on Jack Kerouac, a Franco-American. The endorsements say Jack Kerouac was a legend in the 50s, but the subject wasn’t nearly as interesting as the writing itself.
The way Joyce Johnson writes is a good lesson for writers. Color has so many symbolic meanings and she uses color adeptly to describe Jack Kerouac’s moods. It’s been on my mind for a week as I experiment in my own writing in describing emotion using color. The subject, Jack Kerouac, is strange, disturbing, and it seemed as if his writings were merely thin memoirs of his life experiences disguised in fake identities. In some ways, writers will always have pieces of their lives mixed within their novels, books, and stories. Another author once wrote on her blog how an author’s first novel is usually autobiographical. Jack Kerouac might be a good cautionary tale about how we write our stories.
I read The Voice is All because another author spoke about reading as many biographies as possible and to learn from them. The risk of picking a biography of a man you’ve never heard of is finding a dark subject. This book is perfect for the person with a literary degree, but for the everyday reader, I’m afraid that, unless you are a fan of Jack Kerouac, you’ll find it interesting only for a little while as it’s a study of human nature. I gave this book four stars purely for the writing. Joyce Johnson does a wonderful job in bringing a man to life with mere words.
*book given by publisher to review.