Jack Kerouac spent his elderly years sequestered in a crumbling Mexican hacienda that 'smelt like beer and farts'; his amphetamines replaced with antacids, his octogenarian skin 'the colour and texture of beef jerky'. Never mind that Kerouac actually drank himself to an early death in Florida, because somehow this alternate universe, the starting point of Lynnette Lounsbury's second novel, We Ate the Road Like Vultures, has the tragic atmosphere of reality. Just imagine how crushed Lulu – the teenaged Australian protagonist – feels when she tracks down her diminished idol: 'I only ever read about you being young and mad and wanting everything ... here you are all old and wanting nothing.' By page eight, poor Lulu has already witnessed Kerouac's one-time muse, Neal Cassady, coaxing urine droplets from his withered Johnson, her romance for the Beat generation similarly drying up.
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