Jack Kerouac is big business; in 2010, one biographer estimated the value of his estate at $30 million.
So Kerouac-iana can create a stir, especially previously unknown documents directly related to the author himself.
That’s what Skinner Inc. is offering up for auction: A newly discovered cache of letters by Jack Kerouac dating back to 1939. There are 17 complete letters, two postcards and seven “substantial fragments” that “sustained significant damage from a leaking paint can.”
Typed and single-spaced, the letters often have a frenetic, breathless quality. Written by Kerouac as early as high school, they show, in part, the development of the writing style that would make him the most famous novelist of the Beat Generation.
Living in New York in 1941, Kerouac writes in one letter that he will return home to Lowell, Mass., for a weekend, typing in red ink, “because that is where the road began.”
Kerouac was writing to George J. Apostolos, a childhood friend in Lowell. Some of their correspondence has appeared in biographical works about Kerouac. According to Skinner, these letters had been rumored to have been in Apostolos’ possession and possibly burned, but were discovered by his daughter after Apostolos died in 2010.
The Boston-based Skinner will offer the Kerouac materials at its Rare Books & Manuscripts sale on Nov. 16. While some details of the auction are still being finalized, the 17 letters will be sold as separate lots with estimated values of $2,000 to $5,000 apiece.