Kerouac, Jack | Two typed letters to Allen Ginsberg, analyzing his vision of William Blake through his new Buddhist worldview

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Auction date Classic
08.12.2023 12:00 UTC -05:00
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ID 1108783
Lot 54 | Kerouac, Jack | Two typed letters to Allen Ginsberg, analyzing his vision of William Blake through his new Buddhist worldview
Kerouac, Jack
Two typed letters to Allen Ginsberg, analyzing his vision of William Blake through his new Buddhist worldview

3 1/2 pages (278 x 215 mm) on four leaves, [Richmond Hill?], 29 July [1954], headed (probably by Kerouac) in red pen "From JK ' 54", a few penciled corrections to text, two lines of text in the first paragraph blacked out; a few losses at top left where previously stapled, occasional light spotting and creasing. [Together with] Typed letter draft to Allen Ginsberg. One page (278 x 215 mm), [Richmond Hill, 25 May [1954], headed in red pen, "Unfinished Letter to Allen, concerning Neal, '54."

Kerouac on Dharma, Allen Ginsberg's vision of William Blake, and On the Road

Two letters, one of which is an unfinished draft, written to Allen Ginsberg during a quiet, meditative summer Kerouac spent living with his mother, collecting unemployment from the railroad, studying Buddhism, and tending a small vegetable garden. Kerouac was inching closer to his literary breakthrough — his new agent Sterling Lord was circulating the manuscript of The Beat Generation (an alternative name for On the Road), among publishers. Kerouac was anticipating Ginsberg's return from Mexico, and wrote to him via Neal Cassady thinking he would be found there: "This is for you when you get to Neal's maybe 3, 4 weeks from now, but the context will still apply unless I suddenly sell BEAT GENERATION (ON THE ROAD) to Little Brown in Boston" (draft letter, 25 May).

Both letters show Kerouac firmly enthralled with Eastern teachings (and his interpolation of them), with numerous references to Buddhism, Ayurveda, "Primordial Nothingness," "Mind Essence," and more. The July 28 letter is particularly substantive, opening with: "Just finished typing DHARMA notes, 79 singlespace pages, about 40,000 words in length, and will take it tomorrow to the post office and send it to you registered mail. It will explain itself so far as my talk to you about Buddhism is concerned, that is, my entire responsibility is in those 79 pages, altho I don't subscribe to them as great or anything, merely useful for students of buddhism, tho only spotty and incomplete, s'why I call it Some of the Dharma. I've abandoned that project temporarily, tho I may keep adding some notes on Dharma as time goes on, and started a new wilder book on the subject which will be modern prose blowing sessions immediately following profound samadhis describing them in detail, in other words, visionary prose for visions."

A large portion of the letter is devoted to Kerouac's analysis of Ginsberg's 1948 vision of William Blake. Kerouac quotes at length from his friend's prose, with his own commentary interspersed throughout: "'One day,' you write, 'in the middle of summer as I was walking down 125 street I suddenly stopped and stared around me in amazement. It was as if I had just wakened from a long, vague, stupid dream that I'd walked around in all my life ... The whole mad apparition of an evil sick unconscious wild city rose before me in visible semblance ... When I returned home to my apartment, my first impulse was to consult an old author, WmBlake, whom I had remembered from earlier days... etc.' and if you had consulted the wisdom of the east instead, direct, instead of via Swedenborg and his phoney[sic] mysticism... Don't you see that everything western is really only a perversion of everything eastern.? The sun rises from the east, it sets in the west."

Returning to publishing matters, the July postscript of reveals that little progress has been made with On The Road since the cautious optimism of his earlier letter: "Beat Generation and all my works are in the hands of Stanley Colbert of Lord&Colbert Agency. He has sent it to EP Dutton now. I cant understand why he cant get it bpublished? Dohyou think there is something fishy, please hlep em e me in yr thoughts..."
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