Kerouac letter’s discovery shows poet didn’t toss it
LOS ANGELES — When a letter credited with inspiring Jack Kerouac to create a new literary genre suddenly surfaced, no one was happier than an 86-year-old poet and playwright from New Jersey.
For more than 50 years, Gerd Stern had been wrongly accused of tossing what Kerouac called “the greatest piece of writing I ever saw” over the side of a houseboat.
“Yes, I’m the guy who dropped the letter off the boat, but of course I didn’t,” Stern, laughing heartily, said after the Associated Press reported Sunday that the 16,000-word screed to Kerouac from his friend and literary muse Neal Cassady was found intact last week in a house in Oakland.
“At least 12 literary publications through the years have accused me,” Stern said. “People have written to me and damned me for this. After 50 years, it’s a blessing to be vindicated.”