Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fiction: The Sea Is My Brother by Jack Kerouac

First, let it be understood that Jack Kerouac’s first but-until-now-unpublished novel, The Sea Is My Brother was never actually lost. And, having never been lost, it can not now be found. Kerouac himself never tried to get the novel published. In fact, by all accounts, he didn’t really think much at all of the work. In Kerouac by Ann Charters, she quotes the author as saying that the book was “more an example of handwriting than of a novel.”

Though all of this may be true and, in fact, probably is, The Sea Is My Brother is still a worthwhile journey if for no other reason than to visit with proto Kerouac and see the embryonic writer -- a 21-year-old merchant marine when he wrote the book, 14-years-before On the Road -- struggling with the style we would later come to identify him by. And struggling here as much with ideas as with getting them down, something we see again and again in the prose.
Slowly, now, Everhart began to realize why life had seemed so senseless, so fraught with fully lack of real purpose in New York, in the haste and oration of his teaching days -- he had never paused to take hold of anything, let alone the lonely heart of an old father, not even the idealisms with which he had begun life as a seventeen-year-old spokesman for the working class movement on Columbus Circle Saturday afternoons.
Read in isolation, I can’t imagine that anyone would think The Sea Is My Brother is a terribly good book. And one wonders if Kerouac would have cringed to see it in bookstores and libraries now, alongside the more cleanly crafted works he would later create in a style that would come to be all his own. That said, for his admirers and students of his style, the book is a worthwhile read, if for no other reason than to spot the glimmers of the manic genius he would later release with such skill.

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