Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters

For anyone who has ever felt drawn to the Beat Generation, yet has never fully comprehended its history, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters provides a long-awaited context for the lives, loves, and poetry of its founders. Beginning in 1944, Kerouac and Ginsberg’s correspondence stretched nearly 20 years, spurred by a murder and sustained by a mutual love of the written word.

In Viking’s new publication, the depth and cultural significance of the two writers’ works takes on a new perspective. Their letters chronicle the authors’ complex relationship, including Ginsberg’s early admiration of the hyper-heterosexual Kerouac, as well as their numerous publication rejections, and the establishment of a literary movement that defined a generation.

As Kerouac once wrote to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Someday ‘The Letters of Allen Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac’ will make America cry.”

Click through the gallery below for a few of our favorite quotes from the book.

Allen Ginsberg, 1945. Image courtesy Allen Ginsberg Project, © Allen Ginsberg Estate

“I am neither romantic nor a visionary, and that is my weakness and perhaps my power; at any rate it is one difference. In less romantic and visionary terms, I am a Jew, (with powers of introspection and eclecticism attendant, perhaps.) But I am alien to your natural grace, to the spirit which you would know as a participator in America.”
— Allen Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac, July, 1945

“A line from my diary: ‘We are sealed in our own little melancholy atmospheres, like planets, and revolving around the sun, our common but distant desire.’ Not so good, perhaps, but if you steal that line of mine, I’ll actually kill you, for a change.”
— Jack Kerouac to Allen Ginsberg, August, 1945