The Sea Is My Brother the lost novel by Jack Kerouac

The Sea Is My Brother The Lost Novel by Jack 
Kerouac ( www.penguinclassics.com)

Yes finally it is out Jack Kerouacs first novel 
The Sea Is my Brother written in 1942 and finally 
published in 2011, which of course begs the 
question why so long, well on getting the book and 
looking that it has 420 pages it couldn't be 
incomplete could it, well actually it is woefully 
incomplete.  As just as I was getting right into 
the story of Jacks time in the merchant marine the 
story finishes just two days after they go to sea 
and after just 145 pages of the book!
So before I get to what the rest of the book,  is 
The Sea Is My Brother any good?  Well as a first 
effort at novel writing its excellent or would 
have been had it been completed, what really 
fascinated me about it was that as it was written 
during world war 2 the contemporary thoughts of 
what was happening, as it happened so to speak. 
That and the fact that Jack was more aligned with 
the communists than the non communists.  The story 
of course then got re-told in several parts time 
and again by Jack including in the other recent 
finds And All the hippos were boiled in there 
tanks covers much similar ground and is a good 
addition for all Kerouac nuts.
The Other two thirds of this book are taken up by 
60 pages of Early Writings and over 200 pages of 
the works of the Young Prometheans most of which 
is written by Sebastian Sampas one of Jacks 
closest friends growing up in Lowell.
The early writings are several short stories and 
outlines for novels that show Jacks love for a 
detective story and trying to be all Dashiell 
Hammet in the incomplete Detective Story. But the 
biggest hint at his future is I resort To Another 
Barroom that showed his early love of being a 
barfly in New England and is a play about when 
they got a New York critic to come down to Lowell 
to pitch a play to him. This is a story Jack 
retells several times in his later books such as 
the Vanity of Dulouz, great to read the first 
draft of it.
The Young Promoetheans were a group of friends 
from Lowell all of whom had artistic aspirations 
and who met to talk politics literature and music 
etc while at school/college. I know want to read 
some Saroyan who along with Wolfe seem to be the  
groups biggest influence.
 The stuff in the book is mainly the letters 
between Jack and his best friend Sebastian Sampas 
and they cover the guys college years and I found 
myself really liking Sebastians style and 
realising he was the far better writer of the two 
as we follow along with the shadow of WW2 never 
far away as a few of there friends die along the 
way .
The letters really get interesting when Sebastian 
is in Boot camp and gives a good look at what it 
was like to be a sensitive young man in boot camp 
and coming to terms with the fact you might get 
killed. I was shocked at how many of the recruits 
in Sebastians barracks commit suicide apparently 
there was one most days. 
Jacks become less interesting in comparison to 
what Sebastian is experiencing and pouring his 
heart out to Jack who also ends up at boot camp 
only to rebel against the discipline and get's 
thrown in the psych ward before being thrown out 
as mentally unfit, he couldn't get along with 
being told when he could smoke and sleep etc. 
Sebastian also send Jack several poems including 
the ones Stars and Stripes put out and they are 
all well worth reading and as the book and the war 
progress the air of doom grows until Seb is sent 
first to North africa and then to Anzio where he 
was one of the many thousands to die in that awful 
battle. 
Of course Jack kept all the letters and eventually 
married Sebastian's sister Stella who had kept all 
of Jacks letters to her brother he also used the 
contents of the letters as the basis for several 
of his novels rewriting the stories and keeping 
Sabby alive.
I'd have to say I only reccomend this book to 
people who have already read a good few Kerouac 
books or are interested in the development of 
writers.

About simonovitch

Writer poet music freak etc etc based in London you'll find out more by reading my blogs.
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