The Town and the City is a novel by Jack Kerouac, published by Harcourt Brace in 1950. This was the first major work published by Kerouac, who later became famous for his second novel On the Road (1957). Like all of Jack Kerouac's major works, The Town and the City is essentially an autobiographical novel, though less directly so than most of his other works. The Town and the City was written in a conventional manner over a period of years, and much more novelistic license was taken with this work than after Kerouac's adoption of quickly written "spontaneous prose". The Town and the City was written before Kerouac had developed his own style, and it is heavily influenced by Thomas Wolfe (even down to the title, reminiscent of Wolfe titles such as The Web and the Rock).
The novel is focused on two locations (as suggested by the title): one, the early Beat Generation circle of New York in the late 1940s, the other, the nearly rural small town of Galloway, Massachusetts that the main character comes from, before going off to college on a football scholarship. The experiences of the young "Peter Martin" struggling for success on the high school football team are largely those of Jack Kerouac (he returns to the subject again in his last work Vanity of Duluoz, published in 1968).
The "city" represents a number of figures of the early beat circle: Allen Ginsberg (as Leon Levinsky), Lucien Carr (as Kenneth Wood), William Burroughs (as Will Dennison), Herbert Huncke (as Junky), David Kammerer (as Waldo Meister), Edie Parker (as Judie Smith) and also Joan Vollmer (as Mary Dennison) -- though she essentially has a non-speaking role (however some of her ideas are quoted by the Ginsberg-figure). Near the end of the novel, the Waldo Meister character dies by falling from the window of Kenneth Wood's apartment (a distant echo of the real event: David Kammerer knifed by Lucien Carr, possibly in self-defense). In the novel the police largely just accept this as a suicide. A version of the events closer to the truth can be found in Vanity of Duluoz, where Carr was arrested and eventually accepted a plea of manslaughter and a prison sentence; and Kerouac was arrested and held briefly as an accessory after the fact.
|Real-life person||Character name|
|Jack Kerouac||Peter Martin|
|Leo Kerouac||George Martin|
|Caroline Kerouac||Ruth and Elizabeth Martin|
|Gabrielle Kerouac||Marguerite Courbet Martin|
|Gerard Kerouac||Julian Martin|
|George "G.J." Apostolos||Danny "D.J." Mulverhill|
|Henry "Scotty" Beaulieu||Scotcho Rouleau|
|William S. Burroughs||Will Deinnson|
|Joan Vollmer||Mary Deinnison|
|Mary Carney||Mary Gilhooley|
|Lucien Carr||Kenneth Wood|
|Billy Chandler||Tommy Campbell|
|Allen Ginsberg||Leon Levinsky|
|David Kammerer||Waldo Meister|
|Edie Parker||Judie Smith|
|Sebastian "Sammy" Sampas||Alex Panos|