We’ve all been hearing about this thing for 60 years, and it was considered lost, it was considered destroyed, and nobody really ever read the whole thing. It’s just as significant as the original scroll version of Kerouac’s manuscript of On the Road.”
Beat movement figure Gerd Stern carried the blame for 60 years for losing a 16,000-word typewritten letter, about to go up for auction, that inspired the revolutionary style of Jack Kerouac’s celebrated novel, On the Road.
The 1950 drug-fuelled letter, written by Beat legend Neal Cassady and valued at more than $500,000, was thrown overboard on Stern’s California houseboat.
Or at least that’s the story Kerouac told the press.
“It appeared in various literary journals and it was annoying,” says Stern, now 87.
“I never thought that I had destroyed it.”
Stern, a poet and artist who was connected to the writers known as the Beat Generation, was finally vindicated in 2012 when the long-lost letter was found in the home of a man unconnected to both Kerouac and Stern.
“The reason they are so interested in the letter is that it’s one of the few remaining artifacts that has been brooded about for all those years,” Stern said.
Christie’s recently announced the letter will be up for auction on June 16 in New York and estimates its value between $523,500 and $785,250.