Jack Kerouac’s lost book found – and published

American author Jack Kerouac’s first ever novel, which was thought to be lost, has been published 40 years after his death.

The American writer, who was hailed the king of the Beat generation and a hero to many young men, penned The Sea Is My Brother aged 20, based on his years as a merchant seaman. It features correspondence with his best friend Sebastian Sampas and recalls his “life and experiences” at sea, says the book’s editor Dawn Ward.

“This book is really quite important as it shows how Jack developed his writing process,” she says. “The letters that support this period, show that he and Sebastian were reading very important writers and playwrights of the time. They were paying attention to changes in literature styles and autobiographical works.”

Ms Ward says the work is especially poignant as he “opens up and shows a side to him that we don’t normally see in his books.”

The manuscript, which was was discovered in the writer’s archive by his brother-in-law, came as a surprise to Kerouac experts, Ms Ward says.

“It was referred to briefly in letters, but nothing that led anyone to believe that there was this really large volume…”

On The Road, about a spontaneous road trip, was and still remains Kerouac’s most influential and famous book.

Ms Ward says it is the “great rhythm, flair and openness” that continues to attract people to the novel.

At the time, critics sat up and took notice of the work, hailing Kerouac as the voice of the Beat Generation – a group of post-WWII writers including poet Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs, who rejected conformity and materialism in favour of free expression and experimentation with drugs and sexuality…

Kerouac famously penned the work in three weeks, on one large roll of paper, so he could avoid reloading a typewriter…

“He was well known for just firing himself up on drugs and alcohol and writing and writing and writing. So there’s a kind of free flowing stream of consciousness quality to it. It has a kind of excitement and energy to it which makes it continually interesting…”

“Jack made a tremendous impact on American literature, not just as this cult figure, but also as this person who changed the rules,” says Ms Ward.

I think young people are still driven to his work because it is this exemplary of freedom.”

You got it, Dawn. As much as I and others from that period relished the outlaw life – and there were other significant voices before and during the same period, ranging from James Baldwin, Norman Mailer and Peter Bowman to Alan Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti – we often came back to Kerouac as the example of artist who cared for nothing but his art and his freedom.

If you had to throw away everything, destroy everything material you owned to break free – that was the choice you had to make.

One thought on “Jack Kerouac’s lost book found – and published

  1. keaneo says:

    There are other examples not only in art and literature; but, an example I always remember – though I haven’t seen the flick in years – is THIEF starring James Caan.

    Watch it some time if you have the chance. Lots of pantywaist ideologues hate the end of that movie. Yet strong individualists, left and right, love it.

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