Auctions | July 9, 2015

Jack Kerouac Letter About Never-Published Novel Up for Auction

BOSTON, MA—A typed letter from Jack Kerouac to his literary agent will be featured in an upcoming auction from Boston, based RR Auction.

The typed one-page letter signed twice, “Jack (over)” and “JK,” dated September 27, 1968. Letter to literary agent Sterling Lord in New York concerning the premise for his never-completed final book, the working title of which was Spotlight.

In part: “Here's what I'll do with SPOTLIGHT. I'll use my public appearances on TV and lectures as rungs in the ladder of the narrative. In betwixt, I can throw in more private matters, such as my two physical beatings in bars ('Spotlight' indeed), and other things, but the main tale will be. I'll start with when I'm living on that back-porch in Florida with my Maw in 1957, broke, arguing about what to buy for dessert because we have no money for meat, and suddenly Time Magazine comes in to interview me about the upcoming publication of ON THE ROAD. At which time, also, I have the mumps, caught in the Mexico City earthquake of August 1957. Then I saunter to the railroad station and sit in the warm dry air waiting for my train to New York, figuring, I'll go up there and see how this new book makes out. When I arrive in New York City I look in a disposal trash basket in Penn Station to see what my review was like in the New York Times. But since someone's spit on the only Times in the can, I don’t touch it, and only walk up to the Viking Press to see what's happened. When I get there they tell me I'm an overnight success. And I'm hungry for food. So we go to Schraft's across the street and I order my lunch but everybody's yakking so much around me I begin to realize right then and there that 'success' is when you can’t enjoy your food any more in peace." 

He adds a lengthy postscript on the reverse, signed with his initials, in full: “p.s. I'm using the title SPOTLIGHT because that was the name of my father's old theatrical newspaper in Lowell, when he used to play cards with W.C. Fields, George Arliss and George Burns backstage at the old B.F. Keith's theater (of the Keith's circuit) in Lowell. The title will honor the memory of his own work. I really dont think we have to say BEAT SPOTLIGHT, as I originally proposed, unless the publishers think different, just as long as spotlight is in there. And of course no changes in the prose. “

Lord was Kerouac’s agent and was responsible for shopping On the Road to Viking, who published it in 1957.

“Excellent content in a letter that is quintessentially Kerouac,” said Bobby Livingston, Executive VP at RR Auction.

Among other items related in the auction, a matte-finish gelatin silver photo of Jack Kerouac originally taken by Allen Ginsberg in 1953.  The photo includes a lengthy description by Ginsberg of Kerouac and the setting of the picture.

The Fine Autographs and Artifacts auction, from RR Auction features more than 1000 items.  The auction which began on June 26 and will end on July 15 at 7PM. More details can be found online at