The Town and the City

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The Town and the City is the first published novel of the American author Jack Kerouac. It is thought to have been inspired by his father's death.

The novel is Kerouac's longest. Before writing it, he made a decision not to stop until he had completed 300,000 words. It was published in 1950 by Harcourt Brace.

Kerouac wrote the novel over a period of two years, keeping a diary that detailed much of his philosophical and literary troubles during this time. He relied upon the works of Fyodor Dostoevksy, calling Dostoevksy's wisdom "the highest wisdom in the world" after he grew tired with the essays of the "too self-conscious" Leo Tolstoy, for spiritual guidance.

It was aptly pointed out that Kerouac relied heavily upon the influence of Thomas Wolfe while writing the novel, and many comparisons can be made between it and the works of Wolfe. Many critics, however, suggested that Kerouac, far from merely emulating Wolfe, had surpassed him.

The novel is about a large family, (surname Martin) and features the five sons and three daughters of the family growing up, and being drawn from their semi-rural life in Galloway, to the symbol of capitalism and urbanity - the "melting pot" - that was New York, all in search of fame and identity.

Kerouac applied many of his own character traits to the sons of the family, though he can be most closely compared with Peter Martin. Much of the events and conversations that happen in the novel and to Peter have their parallel in Kerouac's own life. Several of his friends appear in the work, including the writer Allen Ginsberg and his own father, as George Martin.

The Town and The City takes the form of a bildungsroman. It is an impeccable first novel, written when Kerouac was in his early twenties, and was succeeded by Kerouac's most famous work On the Road - the most perfectly appropriate novel to serve this role.

His most conventional novel, it is also the most revealing. It allows one to assess the mind of Kerouac before he had developed (and subsequently become associated) with his own 'spontaneous prose' style and the Beat Generation movement he would come to lead (though not, entirely, voluntarily).