Newark Star-Ledger


In her book The Awakener: A Memoir of Kerouac and the Fifties the translator and writer Helen Weaver provides a lush picture of her short, turbulent affair with the Beat writer that changed her life. In Weaver’s swirling memoir, readers will get a fresh perspective on Jack Kerouac and his magnetism as a man and writer.

Weaver was 25 in the fall of 1956 when she met Kerouac. The product of a sheltered childhood, Weaver’s world was shaken by Kerouac while he was on the cusp of publishing On the Road, the novel that would make both his career and the Beat Generation. Kerouac was passionate, kind and irresponsible, as well as prone to drunken depressions. The book is an exploration of the bohemian counterculture in New York’s Greenwich Village and the radical changes that would come to American society. Weaver also was involved both politically and sexually with the censored comic Lenny Bruce in the 1960s, and later became both a noted translator of the French philosopher Antonin Artaud and an astrologer. The Awakener is a vivid look at the 1950s Beat era and Weaver’s winding path to personal enlightenment.

—Dylan Foley, Newark

Dylan Foley interviewed me over the telephone as preparation for this review. To read our interview, go to: Foley Interview