The Sea Is My Brother by Jack Kerouac
Da Capo • $23 • ISBN 9780306821257
Published March 6, 2012

Seven years before The Town and the City put him on the map, 20-year-old Jack Kerouac (in the Merchant Marine at the time) wrote The Sea Is My Brother, a story of two young men on a ship from Boston to Greenland. This March, 40 years after Kerouac's death, his first novel will be published in the U.S. for the first time.

While Kerouac described it as "man's simple revolt from society as it is" with characters who are "the vanishing American . . . the last of the pioneers, the last of the hoboes," he also called it "a crock." Its autobiographical musings on loneliness wax romantic, the narrator tends to get distracted by the general sexiness and curiousness of everything and, most of all, the prose lacks the determined edge Kerouac gained from the influence of the rest of the beats.

I never expected it to be as good as On the Road or Dharma Bums. But there is something to be appreciated in The Sea Is My Brother, simply as a study of the transformation of a writer. As Penguin says, it gives "a unique insight into the young Kerouac and the formation of his genius." And isn't there something lovely about raw talent (especially when you know what comes next)?

How do you feel about "lost" novels, particularly when they are written in adolescence? Do you like to see where writers come from?

comments powered by Disqus