Denver, CO: July 29, 1947. Original Autograph Letter Signed. 3 pages handwritten in pencil on 1 sheet measuring 11.5 x 8 inches. In excellent condition overall, the letter has a vertical center fold line and two horizontal fold lines all intact and has some mathematical notations on the back blank. Strong and legible signature "Jacky xxx" with handwritten name and address beneath. An intimate and tender letter from the young Kerouac to his mother, from the Denver stop of the road trip that would become the basis for his most famous literary work.
Ten years before On the Road made Jack Kerouac an overnight sensation, he departed on a cross-country trip that immersed him in the wide-ranging romance of the American west. Kerouac's letter to his mother Gabrielle, one of the strongest influences on his life, reveals his creative process with all the earnestness of a 25 year old seeking to learn whatever he could about the world: “Boy, it's been a lot of fun around here. When I get [a] typewriter tomorrow…I'll write and tell you about it. I had about ten girlfriends; went up to the mountains; saw an opera; ate swell food, venison steak, at Hal's house; the weather is nice -- and I'm staying in a swanky apartment with showers and food and everything.” At moments like this, Kerouac's letter thrums with the first notes of On the Road, often described as a novel "based on wild, improvised road trips across the U.S." in which young men "hit the road: crisscrossing the country in search of the new American dream - or just for kicks, music, and women" (Reid). The novelty of new food and hot showers, the fun of a new place, and the excitement of young women shape On the Road and are clearly drawn from Kerouac’s own experiences.
Yet Kerouac’s letter also undermines this notion that the roadtrip was aimless. As he charts his path west, he plans out money and transportation, telling his mother about the need for efficiency if he’s going to meet his goals. “I want to get on to San Francisco and make some money. I haven't a cent left and I'll need $25 to take a bus to California from here, because hitch-hiking is impossible across the desert and the mountains. And Henri Cru will be expecting me by Monday. The easiest way for you to send me the $25.00 is to go to a Western Union office in Brooklyn …and wire me the money.” Within the letter, he sets longterm goals about his writing, outlining a plan to return home with money and the security to complete his book: “I want to get going so I can make a lot of money sailing in the Pacific and come home in the Fall and finish my book.” Denver, a city to which Kerouac would return on all future road trips, proved to be critical for the young writer, who "was a fastidious, old-fashioned craftsman. For every day he spent 'on the road' during his lifetime, gathering material, he toiled for a month in solitude--sketching, polishing, and typing his novels" (Brinkley). In an interview later in his life, Henri Cru, mentioned in this letter, confirmed that in On the Road “most everything that Jack wrote was generally true” when it came to his travels (Moore).
As a literary craftsman, he craves a typewriter and a quiet place to commit his memories to paper. But he is also a young man far from home, and the image of himself working also causes homesickness. “Gee, and you can't realize how much I miss you, and the house, and writing in my room. But I'll be back in a few months and we'll save some money. I hope Nin or Bea are visiting you -- if so, give them my love. Write me a letter right away.”
This letter reveals that like the jazz musicians he so admired, Kerouac carefully develops a narrative that only appears improvised; in actuality, it was a testament to his ability to interweave multiple regional experiences into one text, exposing the diversity of America. It also shows that for Kerouac, the road was as important as his own home. Near Fine (Item #2165)