What 'Lost Works' Say About Their Authors

03/23/2012 04:14 pm ET

By Daniel Lefferts for Bookish

Beat legend Jack Kerouac's first book, “The Sea is My Brother,” hit stores this week. The novel, foraged from the author’s archives by his brother-in-law, is based on Kerouac’s short stint as a merchant seaman. It’s the story of two sailors—one enamored of the adventure of the sea, the other haunted by its isolating vastness—serving on a ship hauling war cargo from New York to Greenland. Being a Kerouac novel, it consists of rambling conversations between the two men about about spirituality, philosophy and freedom. It’s a freshman effort, with plenty of writing 101 missteps, but fans of the “On the Road” author will be fascinated by the glimpse into Kerouac’s early writing mind.

The resurfacing of a lost novel, usually after an author’s death, is always an exciting occasion. What do early works—often left unfinished or rejected by publishers—say about their authors?

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