Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac – Reviewed by Guy Portman
Set in the close-knit working-class French-Canadian community of Lowell, Massachusetts, Maggie Cassidy is a semi-autobiographical account of Kerouac’s adolescence. The story is recounted through the teenage mind of the author’s alter ego, Jack Duluoz, a high school athletics and American football star.
Maggie Cassidy is a meditation on being in love and youthful innocence. A memoir of the fantasy-filled memories of adolescent years spent male bonding with his ‘corner boys’, recollecting on his mother’s expectations and time spent with his father, it is above all an account of his first love, high-school sweetheart, Maggie Cassidy.
The romantic relationship is adeptly portrayed as a pure, passionate, exuberant love, narrated with deep and profound insights. Towards the end of the book Jack moves to a school in New York on a sports scholarship, leaving Maggie behind in Lowell. The culmination of the story comes three years later when Jack, now a man, visits her there. With the passage of time and the resulting altered motives and desires, the innocence has been lost and the resulting liaison is unfulfilled. Perhaps the ending is illustrative of the nature of Kerouac’s own adulthood relationships.
Though one of the author’s less well known books, Maggie Cassidy is a captivating work that utilises long sentences and a fluid narrative style – the hallmark of the experimental, spontaneous writing form, pioneered by Kerouac, the reluctant leader of The Beat Generation.