Do the Brits Love Kerouac More than the Yankees?

3 Dec


Jack Kerouac is the Tupac of the literary world.  Even though he died in the infamous year of 1969, new works of Kerouac’s keep surfacing.  Recent years have seen the publication of Orpheus Emerged (2002) and When the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks (2008), for which he collaborated with William S. Burroughs.  Around Thanksgiving The Sea Is My Brother came out.

Sort of.

The Sea Is My Brother was published in England on November 24, 2011, but it won’t come out in the States until March 6, 2012.  I know this because I’ve been stalking the product page and was confused when all of a sudden I started getting news that the novel had come out.  I thought maybe it had been released early.  Okay, for any of you who work in publishing, you know that I was really taking a wild leap with that one.  Pub dates shift out further.  Books rarely come in earlier than expected.  So what gives?  Why is a quintessential American author – the author that hitchhiked his way across the United States – being published overseas before in the States?

The good news is if you go to Penguin’s website, you can have the book shipped to you from the UK.  (The rights for the ebook are restricted to the UK.)  You just have pay a whole lot more than if you wait until spring.  Dear Santa….

Here’s the synopsis from Penguin:

Described by Kerouac as being about “man’s simple revolt from society as it is, with the inequalities, frustration, and self-inflicted agonies”, the 158-page handwritten manuscript was Kerouac’s first novel, but was not published during his lifetime. He wrote in his notes for the project that the characters were “the vanishing American, the big free by, the American Indian, the last of the pioneers, the last of the hoboes”. The novel follows the fortunes of Wesley Martin, a man who Kerouac said “loved the sea with a strange, lonely love; the sea is his brother and sentences. He goes down.”

Jack began this work not long after his first tour as a Merchant Marine on the S.S. Dorchester in the late summer of 1942 during which he kept a journal detailing the gritty daily routine of life at sea. Inspired by the trip, which exemplified Jack’s love for adventure and the character traits of his fellow shipmates, the journals were spontaneous sketches of those experiences that were woven into a short novel soon after disembarking from the S.S. Dorchester in October of 1942.

The book also contains correspondence between Kerouac and his Greek childhood friend Sebastian Sampas, with whom he grew up with in Lowell, Massachusetts.  Sampas died while serving in World War II, and Kerouac married his friend’s sister, Stella Sampas.

The BBC’s interview with Dawn Ward quotes the editor as saying Kerouac “‘opens up and shows a side to him that we don’t normally see in his books.'”

The top image is from the hardcover edition published by Penguin the UK.  Below is the cover image being used by Da Capo, an imprint of Perseus Books, which is publishing the book in the States.



5 Responses to “Do the Brits Love Kerouac More than the Yankees?”

  1. Linda December 4, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    Wow …. That sounds interesting. I think I’ll read it … Next spring…of course. Jack’s always got an original take on whatever he does/did. HIs first novel might be brillant or brillantly painful — since it was never published. I wonder if he appeals so very much to Brit’s because his caustic wit and his sharp eye isn’t focused on them in any of his writings? Or maybe it’s because the Brits have been around just about forever and find all uppity/upstarts, taking pot shots at society, “Bloody vaguely amusing!”

    • Stephanie Niko December 4, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

      “Bloody vaguely amusing!” hahaha love it! Maybe it has something to do with his time in the merchant marine.

  2. JHaeske December 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    Thanks for this post. Have you ordered it in the UK then? I haven’t got it myself yet, but will def. be ordering it before Xma. There’s a rather critical blog post about the book and more specifically the publishing policy here:


  1. We’re in Empty Mirror! | Stephanie Nikolopoulos - October 14, 2013

    […] The excerpt is from the sections “The Sea Is My Brother” and “Schizoid” from the beginning of the biography. It begins with Jack Kerouac’s Lowell friend, a Greek American named Sebastian Sampas, going off to Camp Lee and then tells of Kerouac’s time in boot camp. During this time period, the young author was working on the book The Sea Is My Brother. […]

  2. Friday Links: The UK & Beat Generation Connection | Stephanie Nikolopoulos - November 15, 2013

    […] When England got The Sea Is My Brother before we did, I wondered if the Brits love Kerouac more than the Yankees? […]

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