This November saw the announcement of a previously undiscovered novel by author, Beat paragon, and Lowell, Massachusetts native Jack Kerouac. The Sea is My Brother, which will be published in 2012, was Kerouac’s first novel, written around 1942, when the author was only 20 years old. The title had been mentioned in Kerouac’s correspondence, but it was only recently that relatives discovered the lost manuscript.
The novel, like much of Kerouac’s writing, is culled from his real life experiences, and was heavily influenced by a brief amount of time working as a merchant marine. The work also features journal notes and letters from the time to Kerouac’s friend, poet Sebastian Sampas.
Kerouac has recently had other posthumous publications, with a new edition of On the Road in 2007, and a work penned with William S. Burroughs titled And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks in 2008. David Barnett of The Independent has called him, “one of the most posthumously prolific authors ever.” Immediate reception of The Sea is My Brother favors the novel as insight into an important literary figure, rather than a great work itself. Olivia Laing, in her review for New Statesman, described the book as “spectacularly tedious,” while Barnett also writes that the novel is proof Kerouac “paid his dues.” Sarah Churchwell, for The Guardian, says, “Puerile, yes. Treasures, no.”
Jack Kerouac wrote from the 1940s until his death in 1969. Many of his novels remain in print today. Kerouac himself didn’t see the publication of one of his novels until The Town and the City in 1950. He is often revered as a founder of post-World War II American literature and culture, though he was not without detractors. Truman Capote once said of his stream-of-consciousness style: “That’s not writing. It’s typing.”