In the spring of 1943, during a stint in the merchant marine, twenty-one-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 seventy 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: twenty-seven-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 thirty-two, 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.