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.
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