Since the fiftieth anniversary of On the Road, Kerouac has been somewhat revitalized. Despite being dead for forty years, Beat enthusiasts are still getting to read fresh material, as publishers trawl through his estate for unpublished material.

First there was the Original Scroll version of On the Road, which cast off the restraints necessary for the first fifty years of publication, and included the real names of characters as Kerouac famously wrote them in his legendary writing fit that produced a 120-foot long scroll manuscript. Next came Wake Up: The Life of the Buddha, which has been less successful, but still of great interest to Kerouac fans. It is a retelling of the life of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama, who led perhaps the first Beat life. After that there was And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, which Kerouac co-wrote with William Burroughs after the murder of David Kammerer, in 1944.

Now there is The Sea is my Brother, Kerouac’s first novel, but one which has been lost in time. It was never published during his tragic life, but Kerouac wrote the book during his time at sea. It is the story of Wesley Martin, a man who ‘loved the sea with a strange, lonely love.’

The Sea is my Brother appears to share the spirit of On the Road and Kerouac’s early Beat philosophy. It is about loneliness and a search for love in an unpleasant world. According to Kerouac’s notes on the book, it is about ‘the vanishing American… the American Indian, the last of the pioneers, the last of the hoboes.’

Another note states that the book tells the story of a ‘man’s simple revolt from society as it is, with the inequalities, frustration, and self-inflicted agonies.’ That sounds promising, indeed. Hopefully this will mirror Hunter S. Thompson’s ‘lost’ Rum Diary, which found legitimate success when released in 1998. It will certainly be interesting to see a new emergence from the period that spawned Kerouac’s greatest works.

Strangely, early references to the novel on the internet seem convinced that it will usher in a ‘new Beat Generation’, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Hopefully, Kerouac will continue to find fans for years to come, but I highly doubt this will have the same effect on society as On the Road.

The Sea is my Brother has been purchased by Harper in the US, and will hopefully emerge within the next year. It will apparently be packaged with correspondence from the author around the time of writing the book.

David S. Wills

David S. Wills is the founder and editor of Beatdom literary journal and the author of Scientologist! William S. Burroughs the Weird Cult and World Citizen: Allen Ginsberg as Traveller. His next book, High White Notes: The Rise and Fall of Gonzo Journalism comes out in November, 2021.

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