It's been described as the 'Holy Grail' of the Beat Generation - and now the letter that inspired a movement has been discovered.
Jack Kerouac had already completed a draft of his classic On The Road when he received a letter from his friend Neal Cassidy, which documented a wild weekend spent with a woman called Joan Anderson in 1950. It was written over 18 pages in an amphetamine-fuelled, stream of consciousness style, which inspired Kerouac to rewrite his novel in a similar manner. It went on to become hugely successful and launched a new style of writing: Beat Literature.
Jerry Cimino, founding director of the Beat Museum in San Francisco explained, "Prior to this, Kerouac had been writing in a relatively standard fashion for that time, and when he got this letter from Neal ... it just knocked his socks off. He said, 'Wow, look at how Neal is writing' — it's so spontaneous; it's so confessional. And Jack Kerouac adapted that style from Neal Cassady's letter and used it in the writing of his new novel, which was called On The Road, which of course became his best-seller."
It had been lost for 65 years, with its last known whereabouts being with poet Allen Ginsburg, who claimed that he had sent it to a literary agent named Gerd Stern. Ginsburg started a rumour that Stern had dropped it off the side of a boat, but it turns out that it was never posted - instead it had been forwarded to a different agent and had lain unopened for decades until his daughter had sorted through his possessions upon his death.
It will be auctioned off on December 17th by Profiles In History.
[via Laughing Squid]