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The Sea Is My Brother: The Lost Novel Hardcover – March 20, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Kirkus Reviews, 2/1/12
“A Jack London–esque yarn.”

Publishers Weekly, 1/30/12
“While it may not be the Rosetta Stone of the beat movement, the publication of this flawed manuscript will be an event for [Kerouac’s] admirers.”

Booklist, 3/1/12
“Read this first effort to watch Kerouac learning the ropes.”
Entertainment Weekly, 3/2/12
“You'll see hints of the bebop prose that would later pour out of Kerouac's typewriter so effortlessly.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/11/12
“Rarely does talking seem as much like action as it does in The Sea Is My Brother. The characters' words fire the imagination. If they don't move you, to quote Louis Jordan, ‘Jack, you dead’…There is a song inside The Sea Is My Brother, a song for anyone who has ever looked over the horizon and thought, ‘I'm gonna get out of here someday.’”
Tampa Bay Times, 3/11/12
“For a glimpse of Kerouac crossing the boundary from boy to man, fans can now turn to his first novel.”
Wall Street Journal, 3/20/12
“[The Sea Is My Brother] offers plenty of disarming insights into who Kerouac was as a person and writer before he slipped behind the mask of Beat Generation Zen-master...The book is enjoyable”
Litreactor.com, 3/20/12
“The Sea is My Brother is a fascinating read, both in its own right and as part of Kerouac’s canon.”
New York Post, 3/18/12
“There are plenty of hints of the Kerouac to come.”
Blurt-Online, 3/12/12
“[The Sea is My Brother] is perhaps the best of the posthumous releases....Could be considered the skeleton that would become gems."

Huffington Post, 3/23/12
“Fans of the On the Road author will be fascinated by the glimpse into Kerouac’s early writing mind.”

January Magazine, 3/22/12
“For his admirers and students of his style, the book is a worthwhile read.”
National Post (Canada), 3/25/12
“A foreshadowing of Kerouac at his best, a kind of sweet, unassuming persona that made his writing very engaging.”
Chicago Reader, 4/13
“I loved Kerouac’s first novel, The Sea Is My Brother…[It] left me with that feeling that life is full of poems, pain, colorful characters, and small moments that matter.”
Milwaukee Shepherd Express, 4/12/12
The Sea is My Brother is chock-full of pathos, anticipation and hurt. Kerouac’s characters, including the small role players, are a perfect blend of real people living real lives. It was a brilliant, youthful performance by the author, years before he changed the pace of literature with On the Road.
Chicago New City, 4/16/12
“A captivating preview into the author—and his works—to be…A complete story, romantic, energetic, exuberant and even brash, qualities Kerouac never outgrew.”
Charleston Post & Courier, 5/27/12
“The fascination, and perhaps the value of this book, is that it presents itself as a clear precursor to the books that followed. Given Kerouac’s subsequent impact, it is an important artifact in the popular literature of the time.”
Key West News, 6/10/12
“There is none of the jazzy, hepcat language of his mature novels here, more the mannered, measured words of the immature. Yet this first novel already has the uncanny effect that the reader dwells inside what the writer is singing.”


The New York Times Book Review, 7/1/12
“This ’lost novel’…signals what was to come…Kerouac scholars will be fascinated by this early work”

About the Author

Jack Kerouac was born in 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts. The best-known of his many works, On the Road, published in 1957, was an international bestseller. He died in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the age of forty-seven.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Original novel sans commentary edition (March 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306821257
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306821257
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #782,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By islander on March 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
There have long been audio recordings available in which Kerouac spiels segments of this narrative. One of his pivotal travel experiences, the Merchant Marine stint introduced Ti Jean to the dilapidated wharves and rotting skid roads lining the Hudson. (The remnants barely remain beneath the Pulaski Skyway.) Here, he honed his sense for sniffing out the "other" America that rarely made itself known, that one of a decaying beauty, the wabi-sabi of an always already rusting hulk of industrial might have been. It is about time that this has found release.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel was written in the Spring of 1943, seven years before his first "official" novel, The Town and the City, was published in 1950. The Sea Is My Brother was Kerouac's first major work & until now has never been published in its entirety. He wrote this, when he was just 21 & had completed his first tour as a Merchant Marine. Belying Truman Capote's famous quip that Kerouac was not a writer but just a typist, this book was entirely written by hand.
A reader can see it's a novel of a 21-year old author but it's far from amateurish & is more polished than most first novels by 21-year olds. It's very much a coming of age novel & illustrates Kerouac's habit of dropping out of his normal routines to go to sea in the Merchant Marine, or travel down to Mexico or hitchhike cross country. One can see glimpses of the stream of consciousness writing for which Kerouac became famous. Here is a perfect example of one of those long stream of consciousness sentences:
"This was it! That air, that water, the ship's gentle plunges, the way a universe of pure wind drove off the Westminster's smoke and absorbed it, the way white-capped waves flashed green, blue, and pink in the primordial dawn light, the way this Protean ocean extended its cleansing forces up, down, and in a terrific cyclorama to all directions."
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Format: Hardcover
I've never read any Kerouac, so when this book was chosen for my book club I decided to give it a go.

I thought it was an interesting story, if a bit aimless. Its main purpose seems to be an exploration of two aspects of Kerouac's own personality -- the responsible, academic side, and the nomadic free spirit that's more evident in his later works. Each aspect is depicted as a different character. There is also a lot of rhetoric surrounding communism and fascism and the Spanish Civil War. Those are the parts of the book that didn't really appeal to me. I'm not a fan of reading long-winded conversations and/or monologues regarding people's personal philosophies.

Having never read Kerouac before, I had no frame of reference when it came to his writing style. However, according to others in the club who have read his works, this one isn't as well written as his later work, though you can see the beginnings of his style.

I'm generally of the opinion that "lost" works were probably lost for a reason. But, if you are a fan of Kerouac, I think there's enough here to keep your interest. Otherwise, you may want to start with one of his more known works.
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Format: Hardcover
Jack Kerouac (1922 -- 1969) painstakingly wrote "The Sea is my Brother", his first novel, in longhand in 1943 at the age of 21. The book predates by seven years "The Town and the City" (1950), Kerouac's first published novel. The Town and the City Published at last in 2012, "The Sea is my Brother" includes a perceptive introduction and analysis of the book by Kerouac scholar Dawn Ward. Joyce Johnson's recent biography of Kerouac, "The Voice is All" The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac also discusses this early effort.

The book is readable in its own right and for the insights it offers into the United States during the early days of WW II. There is a great deal of rambling, philosophical discussion about Marxism, fascism, and the goal of the War. The theme of the book is that opposition to fascism and support of socialism are insufficient, in their materialism, to make life meaningful. Spirituality, individuality, and a sense of human brotherhood independent of economics and politics, Kerouac suggests, are necessary for the good life and good society.

The short novel tells the story of two young men, Wesley Martin and Bill Everhart. The two characters are in fact one as each displays aspects of Kerouac's divided personality. As the book progresses, whether by design or by shortcomings in Kerouac's early writing, it becomes ever more difficult to distinguish the voices of the two nominally separate protagonists.

Martin is a lonely wanderer of 27 who has been at sea since the age of 17 when his youthful marriage fell apart.
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Format: Hardcover
I was surprised by how much I liked this one. I assumed that it'd be something like *And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks* (which was written around the same era, and would not be at all interesting if somebody other than JK and WB had written it). I thought if *The Sea Is My Brother* had been any good at all then why hasn't been published until recently? After all there's a lot of money to be made with a "lost" Kerouac novel.

Well I can see why it was never released in the 50s or 60s (or 70s and 80s, for that matter) - this book is full of Marxist/ Communist rhetoric. I don't think people are threatened by that too much now after the fall of the Soviet Union and the transformation of China into a capitalistic communist country, etc.

There really isn't much of a story here and the book simply ends right about as it seems to be starting - and it reads almost like a series of writing exercises and character sketches for a creative writing class he might have been taking; but in spite of these facts the spirit of the novel and the attitude of the narrative is pretty much everything I loved about more important Kerouac novels like *On the Road* and *Dharma Bums.* The whole outlook is one of optimism, hope, and growth and you could imagine that these guys would grow up to be adventurously hitchhiking cross country with Sal and Dean.
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