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The Sea is My Brother: The Lost Novel Reviewed By John Cowans of Bookpleasures.com
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John Cowans

Reviewer John Cowans: John was a University, College, and School English teacher for over 40 years, John Cowans now lives in retirement in Chester., Nova Scotia.

 
By John Cowans
Published on May 16, 2012
 

Author: Jack Kerouac

Publisher: Da Capo Press

ISBN:  978-0-306-82128-8



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Author: Jack Kerouac

Publisher: Da Capo Press

ISBN:  978-0-306-82128-8

Jack Kerouac, American novelist and poet, a leading light in the post WW2 cultural phenomenon known as the Beat Generation, is best known for his novels The Town and the City and especially the largely autobiographical On the Road written in 1951 and published in 1957. The Sea is My Brother was probably one of his first novelistic ventures, written in 1943 when the young author had just joined up as a Merchant Marine.

The term Beat Generation was coined by Jack Kerouac in 1948. The word ‘beat’ originally meant ‘deadbeat’ and Kerouac substituted this pejorative connotation with the more spiritual‘beatific’.From this came the term ‘beatnik’. Norman Mailer wrote in Advertisements for Myself, that the term Beatnik’ came into existence in 1958,and was coined by the  San Francisco columnist, Herb Caen. Kerouac is perhaps best known for his ‘spontaneous’ style of writing which he explains in his essay, ‘Essentials of Spontaneous Prose’. Kerouac told an interviewer “ I got the idea for the spontaneous style of On the Road from seeing how good old Neal Cassidy wrote his letters to me .... all first person, fast, mad, confessional, completely serious ...” He goes on to explain, “No periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and timid usually needless commas - but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing ( as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases) -”

In The Sea is My Brother one clearly sees experimentation with this kind of free-blown prose. It tells the story of Wesley Martin, a sailor, and Bill Everhart, a university professor who join the Merchant Marines on a ship filled with war cargo heading for Greenland. It is a story of male friendship, of freedom from the usual hum-drum of life, of drunkenness,  and of wild philosophical meanderings. All of this is not unexpected for anyone who has read any of Kerouac in the past, but this is not a ‘finished’ novel as published novels should be; however; one has to take it as one finds it - a manuscript perhaps long forgotten, now resurrected and thrust before its time into public view. However, for all its shortcomings, as a longtime Kerouac fan ( I wrote my master’s thesis on the ‘Beats’ 45 years ago), this reviewer is glad that it is now available.

Whenever long dead authors’ manuscripts are dug out of the closets of the land for whatever reasons, most always monetary, I suppose, and thrust into the public eye, the howlings of the literary purists rend the quiet of the night. But for the amateur literary historian it is useful to have literary drafts available. This is the case with The Sea is My Brother. One does  not have to read many pages before realizing that the work could use rigorous rewriting, but that is not to say that it should be forever banished from public view.

For anyone interested in the Beat Generation in general and in Jack Kerouac in particular, The Sea is My Brother with all its mis-steps is well worth a read.


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