In the spring of 1943, during a stint in the merchant marines, 21-year-old Jack Kerouac set out to write his first novel. Working diligently day and night to complete it by hand, he titled it The Sea Is My Brother. Nearly 70 years later, its long-awaited publication provides fascinating details and insight into the early life and development of an American literary icon.
Written seven years before The Town and the City officially launched his writing career, The Sea Is My Brother marks the pivotal point at which Kerouac began laying the foundations for his pioneering method and signature style. The novel chronicles the misadventures of two seamen who at first seem different but are really two sides of the same coin: 27-year-old Wesley Martin, who “loved the sea with a strange, lonely love”, and William Everhart, an assistant professor of English at Columbia College who, at 32, impulsively ships out, hoping to “escape society for the sea, but finds the sea a place of terrible loneliness.”
A clear precursor to such landmark novels as On the Road, The Dharma Bums, and Visions of Cody, it is an important formative work that bears all the hallmarks of classic Kerouac: the search for spiritual meaning in a materialistic world, spontaneous travel as the true road to freedom, late nights of intense conversation in bars and apartments, the desperate urge to escape from society, and the strange, terrible beauty of loneliness.
©2011 John Sampras, the Estate of Stella Kerouac; Introduction 2011 by Dawn Ward (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Published for the first time, the novel betrays the faults of inexperience….But these are outweighed by its virtues - the vitality of its dialogue, the freshness and power of its descriptions, whether of cheap saloons, cramped cabins, or sunrise at sea. A social concern rarely found in American fiction since Dos Passos.” (Daily Mail, London)
“The real value in The Sea Is My Brother is that it shows that Kerouac didn’t spring fully formed as the ‘King of the Beats,’ but had an evolution, a period of growing up and maturing, and that he - as any great writer must - certainly paid his dues.” (Independent, London)
A great romp of a tale!
The plot and characters...developed so quickly and with gusto!
Laughed a bit...
This story, on its own, it nothing special. It is unfinished and lacks the signature style that Kerouac is known for. It is however a very interesting look at the early formation of Jack's writing and a glimpse of his first attempt to walk the thin line between fact and fiction. If you love Kerouac's work, you'll probably like this as well. If you have never read any of his other stories, you may be disappointed with this one. Narration is top notch. As usual, Ray Porter knocks it out of the park. He is tied, in my mind, with George Guidall for best audio book voice actor.
Jack Kerouac is a master of words and combined with Ray Porter's melodious voice make a wonderful story from a time past come to life.
Elderly (1932), retired university professor, degrees in engineering and economics.
This is Kerouac at his youngest, if not his best. It was written in 1943 and published in 2012, long after his death. This book is relatively short. It left me looking for the next page. Perhaps that is why the written manuscript lay unpublished for 70 years.
The opening action is in New York in the late 1930’s-early 1940’s. These years were part of the era dubbed The Beat Generation. They were portrayed as a group of young, intellectuals, writers, college dropouts and unemployed men searching for goals and purpose in the years between WWI and WWII.
Two of this group meet, and finally decide to join the Merchant Marines rather than wait around for draft calls. Wesley Martin,is the son of a bartender. Not having money for college, but having a keen intellect, he chose to earn and learn from his travels in the real world in the Merchant Marines. He is a risk taker, unusually curious about people and places and has difficulty with self-discipline. He has a rich inner life and seeks solitude as well as rousing good times with his buddies.
He meets Bill Eberhart when he picks up a girl who is with a party at a bar. Bill Eberhart is an Assistant Professor at Columbia University, searching for a higher meaning in the greater society, wondering if the Marxist revolution in Russia might be the path. He is questioning the value of teaching English Literature to bored students in his quest for purpose in his live.
Kerouac develops the characters of the two men as he traces their growing friendship. Ultimately, Bill decides to join Wesley and sign on as a seaman on Wesley’s Merchant Marine vessel to learn from life experience rather than books. They end up hitch-hiking up the east coast to join up with Wesley’s ship. Kerouac’s unique writing style and his questing themes are seen even at his young age. His easy use of the English language is already impressive.
I highly recommend this first novel by a classic American writer as an introduction to Kerouac and The Beat Generation.
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