Typed letter signed ("Jack") in pencil, to Ian Macdonald. Jack Kerouac.
Typed letter signed ("Jack") in pencil, to Ian Macdonald

"You were the only true teacher I ever had, my friend." ... Unpublished Kerouac letter

Typed letter signed ("Jack") in pencil, to Ian Macdonald.

Ozone Park, Long Island, New York: March 21, 1944, "4 A.M."

2 pp. Annotated "'44" in red ink in upper right corner. 4to. "You were the only true teacher I ever had, my friend." ... Unpublished Kerouac letter. Toned, tiny chips at corners, brittle at edges, old tape reinforcement to margins on verso. Item #312675

A poignant, emotionally vulnerable letter written by a 22-year-old Kerouac to Ian Macdonald, one of his close friends from his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, interrogating Macdonald on the cooling of their friendship; discussing his future first wife, Edie Parker; and mentioning several works in progress, including the earliest version of his first novel, The Town and the City, Visions of Gerard, and others. Kerouac and Macdonald had been part of a tight-knit group of aspiring writers and artists in Lowell in which the young Kerouac found intimate friendship and intellectual and artistic nourishment in the early years of his development. At the time of this letter, Kerouac had been living in New York for four plus years.

"This should prove a rather difficult letter to write," Kerouac begins, adding: "I cannot understand why you do not answer my letters." In speculating whether he'd done something to offend Macdonald, Kerouac mentions their old Lowell crew ("Sebastian, Eddy, Connie, Billy Ryan"), alludes to an episode when he crashed a party at Macdonald's place ("you remember my barging into your house at midnight a year ago, uninvited, unwarrantedly wined, breaking up a quiet session of Mozart chamber music and discussion with pipe and pouch?"), and recalls the hurt he'd recently felt after discovering that his "relationship with Edie ... was a source of laughter for you and Cornelilus ... it was an ordeal, walking back alone that night while you and Connie rode off together, laughing. I circled the block several times and revised some of my theories on human nature." (He adds that his "plans for the next six months do not include [Edie], much to her anger" though in fact they would be married four months later.)

Turning to his literary output, Kerouac writes, "My original idea was to tell you of my latest work, over which I am overly excited---about the novel, 'Galloway' [i.e. The Town and the City], which is at the 30,000-word mark; about my long poem in four parts, entitled 'Supreme Reality'; and about a work I began quite recently, 'Dear Brother', which is destined to become a 150,000-world letter to "my brother, whom I have created in the image of my spirit.'" (This would be the first efforts toward what would ultimately become Visions of Gerard.)

He ends by imploring Macdonald to resume writing to him, invoking the extraordinary impact their friendship has had on his life: "Most important in my mind, Ian, is to find out what’s wrong ... I haven’t one friend in the world who is a fellow artist and to whom I can express myself. The generous time you devoted to me, during those days when we used to play Beethoven and admire each other’s works and devour sumptuous feasts, was a time that I shall never forget. You were the only true teacher I ever had, my friend." He ends by saying that his "offer to come to New York still stands, and imploring, "Try to come, Ian. And please write. I’m afraid I am now ready to collapse into my bed. I have been writing all night"

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