Thursday, May 31, 2018

Curation #54 from my Kerouac bookshelf: The Sea is My Brother by Jack Kerouac

Item #54 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this Penguin Classics 2011 first printing of Jack Kerouac's The Sea is My Brother: The Lost Novel. This copy's provenance is that it was a 2011 Christmas gift (can't remember who from), and it's in very good condition. 423 pages, it measures approximately 6" x 9-1/4".

The Sea is My Brother is considered the first major work by Jack Kerouac. Jack wrote it in the spring of 1943 shortly after his first tour as a Merchant Marine, but it remained unpublished in its entirety until 2011. The novel itself runs a scant 128 pages. In this edition there is a lot of additional matter (editorial comment, early Kerouac writings, illustrations and pictures, and a section titled, "The Young Prometheans," featuring writings by and letters back-and-forth between Jack Kerouac and his friend, Sebastian Sampas (also some correspondence with Stella Sampas). Because of the latter content, I would get this edition if you are going to acquire the novel.

TSIMB is essential Kerouac because it provides a glimpse of his raw and as yet undeveloped talent. The novel met with mixed reviews, the NY Times saying, "Kerouac scholars will be fascinated by this early work, but it struggles to stand on its own." The Washington Times said, "Some 'lost novels' should stay lost, but not this one." The reviewer for Chicago Reader loved it (click here).

I enjoyed The Sea is My Brother on its own merits, but it's not a favorite of  mine compared to other Kerouac novels. Nevertheless, it holds an important spot in the canon as "early Kerouac" and thus deserves a spot on any Kerouac bookshelf worth its salt. 

Below is a picture of Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (4th item from the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Visions of Gerard by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

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