The Joan Anderson Letter: Gerd Stern & Mike McQuate


The man who saved the Joan Anderson Letter meets the man whose reputation he saved.

For sixty years, Gerd Stern was the guy who ‘lost’ the Joan Anderson Letter. Allen Ginsberg said he gave it to Gerd for publication by Ace Books and when Ace rejected it, Gerd never gave it back. Jack Kerouac, in 1968, embellished the story in an interview with The Paris Review when he said Gerd had lost the letter, “the greatest piece of writing I ever saw…” off the side of a houseboat, “overboard” in Sausalito.


Gerd Stern, 1963

In the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio interview below, Jean Spinosa indicates she was not alone when she found the letter. She mentions an unnamed “acquaintance”—actually Mike McQuate—a collector and dealer brought in specifically to identify things of value.

When McQuate pulled the letter from its envelope for the first time in 57 years, Jean initially thought it could be a letter to her father, also named Jack. Mike suspected it could be a letter to Jack Kerouac, and possibly something much bigger. Neither had any idea at that moment what an amazing discovery it was. Subsequent research indicated they had indeed discovered The Joan Anderson Letter of myth & lore.

Jerry Cimino and Mike McQuate

Jerry Cimino and Mike McQuate

This will be the first public appearance of both gentlemen since the announcement on November 23rd that the letter had been found.