LOWELL – More than 40 years after his death, Lowell’s own Jack Kerouac still holds sway over the literary scene. During his lifetime, the Beat Generation icon published more than 20 books of prose and poetry, most famously “On the Road,” before his death in 1969. He has been the subject of films, music and countless written works.

From Sept. 30 through Oct. 3, Lowell continues its 25-year tradition of celebrating that legacy during the Jack Kerouac Literary Festival, with events featuring bestselling authors – Anita Shreve, Russell Banks, Ann Hood, Tom Perrotta and Andre Dubus III – as well as talented local poets, novelists, musicians and artists. Tours on foot and by bus will offer Kerouac fans a firsthand look at the places he frequented and featured in his writing. Most events are free and all are open to the public.

Lowell’s community Kerouac organization is celebrating its 25th anniversary at this year’s festival, which is the 22nd annual event. This is also the first time that it will be known as the Jack Kerouac Literary Festival. The new name signals expanded programming, partnerships and the addition of nationally known authors and other respected writers who will share their work and talk about Kerouac’s legacy.

The festival is being presented by Lowell Celebrates Kerouac!, the Cultural Organization of Lowell, UMass Lowell and Lowell National Historical Park.

“Kerouac is Lowell’s leading identifying element across the country and around the world – his literary legacy and the city’s vitality will benefit from the festival,” said Paul Marion, UMass Lowell executive director of community and cultural affairs. Marion, a respected poet, is the editor of “Atop an Underwood,” a book of previously unpublished early works from Kerouac, including jazz reviews, poetry, short stories, essays and radio plays, some written while he had a 1941 job working at a Hartford, Conn., gas station.

As part of the festival, author and UMass Lowell Asst. Prof. Andre Dubus III will moderate a panel discussion with Shreve (“A Change in Altitude,” “The Weight of Water”), Hood (“The Red Thread”) and Perrotta (“The Abstinence Teacher”) on “Art and Commerce.” The program – 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, 50 Warren St., Lowell – is free and includes a book-signing.

Acclaimed writer Russell Banks (“Continental Drift,” “Affliction,” “The Sweet Hereafter”) will discuss Kerouac’s literary influence, as well as read from and sign his own books. The event, set for 7 p.m. Thursday. Sept. 30 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, is free for students and senior citizens and $10 for all others. Banks’ history with Kerouac includes hosting the writer and his entourage for a weekend in the 1960s, and Banks calls an early influence on his writing.

Writers participating in the festival also include Dennis McNally (“Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation and America,” “A Long Strange Trip: The Inside Story of the Grateful Dead”); Alan Lightman (“Einstein’s Dreams”); poets Maggie Dietz (“Perennial Fall”) and Sandra Lim (“Loveliest Grotesque”), and writer David Daniel (“Coffin Dust”), all of UMass Lowell’s English Department; Jay Atkinson (“Paradise Road: Jack Kerouac’s Lost Highway and My Search for America”), a former UMass Lowell adjunct professor; and Stephen O’Connor (“Smokestack Lightning”).

In addition to Banks’ talk and the panel discussion, UMass Lowell will host several festival events on campus, including:

  • Lightman, an MIT professor of humanities and physics, will read from his book “Mr.g: A Novel about the Creation.” Thursday, Sept. 30 at 3:30 p.m., Alumni Hall, UML North, 84 University Ave., Lowell;
  • McNally will discuss “Jack Kerouac and the American Bohemian Tradition.” Friday Oct.1 at noon, O’Leary Library Auditorium, Room 222, UML South, 61 Wilder St., Lowell (this event will be repeated at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2 at the Lowell National Park Visitor Center);
  • Dietz and Lim will read their poetry on Saturday, Oct. 2 from 3 to 4 p.m., UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, 50 Warren St., Lowell.
  • The 25th anniversary of the community organization Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! will be celebrated and the Jack Kerouac Center for Creativity will be presented at a special event at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2 at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center. The event will include recognition for the group, as well as the local, award-winning slam poetry group Freeverse and performances by Gypsy jazz trio Ameranouche. Suggested donation is $5.

More information and a full schedule of events are available at www.uml.edu/artsandideas/Documents/JK-LitFest-broch.pdf and www.lowellcelebrateskerouac.org

More on Kerouac and Lowell

  • Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Kerouac in the Centralville section of Lowell on March 12, 1922. Kerouac died in Florida in 1969 at age 47.
  • Growing up, Kerouac was a frequent visitor to the Lowell Public Library (now the Pollard Memorial Library), and in “Maggie Cassidy,” he writes of skipping school to go to the library to read Shakespeare, William Penn and scholarly books on chess. The character Maggie Cassidy was based on Kerouac’s Lowell teenage sweetheart.
  • He graduated from Lowell High School in 1939, where he earned A’s and B’s and was a standout in track and football, earning a scholarship to Columbia University.
  • He held a variety of jobs in Lowell, including writing sports for the Lowell Sun newspaper and working at a cookie-making company.
  • In 1950, he returned to Lowell for a celebratory book-signing of his first novel, “The Town in the City,” which was excerpted in the local newspaper.
  • He wrote five books set all or partly in Lowell.
  • Kerouac is buried in Edson Cemetery and memorialized with the Jack Kerouac Commemorative – a sculptural tribute in Kerouac Park in downtown Lowell.
  • Lowell recognized Kerouac with an annual literary festival, and UMass Lowell sponsors a biennial Kerouac Conference on Beat Literature and annual Kerouac Writer-in-Residence Program, both of which are affiliated with the UMass Lowell Kerouac Center associated with the American Studies program.
  • Kerouac was honored posthumously with a doctor of letters degree from UMass Lowell in 2007.

UMass Lowell, with a national reputation in science, engineering and technology, is committed to educating students for lifelong success in a diverse world and conducting research and outreach activities that sustain the economic, environmental and social health of the region. The university offers its 13,000 students more than 120 degree choices, internships, five-year combined bachelor’s to master’s programs and doctoral studies in the colleges of Arts, Sciences, Engineering and Management, the School of Health and Environment, and the Graduate School of Education. www.uml.edu