Kerouac, Jack | Typed letter signed to Ed White, discussing On the Road, Alene Lee, and Malcolm Cowley

Starting price
$ 8 000
Auction date Classic
08.12.2023 12:00 UTC -05:00
Auctioneer
Sotheby´s
Event location
USA, New York
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ID 1108772
Lot 53 | Kerouac, Jack | Typed letter signed to Ed White, discussing On the Road, Alene Lee, and Malcolm Cowley
Kerouac, Jack
Typed letter signed ("Sam Karooch | Chysostoph | Screwm | Srabe | Scrawl | Jack | xxx") to Ed White in Engelwood, Colorado, experimenting with the style that would characterize On the Road, discussing Alene Lee and Malcolm Cowley

2 pages (275 x 212 mm) on two leaves of onion skin, [Richmond Hill, N.Y.], 6 August 1953, original stamped envelope addressed by Kerouac, with his name and return address in his hand; some light marginal toning and fold marks.

Jack Kerouac writes in the spontaneous prose style of On the Road.

Kerouac's writing flows onto the page here in a stream of consciousness, uncorrected and raw. He describes it himself, "here is an example of my trying to swirl my brain from commonplane expression into seas of English or English seas..." Kerouac was living in New York, writing, traveling, and having intermittent periods of emotional turmoil and excessive drinking. It was during this time that he met Alene Lee, an attractive, intelligent African American member of the Beat circle, introduced to him by Ginsberg—

"I have love at last," he begins, "beautiful o so beautiful girl, Alene Lee, 22, a gypsy rose kerchief around her crazy inpinched dark face, I say inpinched I mean little kissable lips and kissable teeth..."

He continues, "I really love her, not only as a "woman," but as a "man," in other words she is a complete humanbeing".

Alene and his stormy two month long affair with her would become the subject for The Subterraneans, the semi-autobiographical follow up to On the Road, written over three Benzedrine fueled days and nights. She was immortalised as Mardou Fox—

"No girl had ever moved me with a story of spiritual suffering
And so beautifully her soul showing out radiant as an angel wandering in hell
And the hell the self-same streets I’d roamed in watching, watching for someone just like her" (The Subterraneans, p. 50).

Kerouac also reveals an alternative title for On the Road, which he had been working on with Malcolm Cowley, “Malcolm Cowley still wanted wild novel of hitching, so I fixed it 50 percent better and gave to him. [...] we wont use On the Road [...] but will use Heroes of the Hip Generation – I spose Cassady will sue, let him sue.”
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