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Lost letter that inspired 'On the Road' discovered, will be auctioned

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Jack Kerouac
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Long thought to be a permanently lost part of literary history, the letter that inspired Jack Kerouac to write On the Road has not just been discovered, but it will also soon be available on the auction block.

Time spoke to Jean Spinosa, a Los Angeles performance artist who, through a bizarre set of circumstances, came to possess the letter.

She found it among boxes belonging to her father, who passed away in 2011, but it was only by coincidence that her father had the letter. He inherited it, unaware of its presence in a box full of poems and letters belonging to a publishing company he worked near.

When the company was throwing its leftover materials out after closing up shop, Spinosa’s father, who she calls a hoarder, felt that these poems and letters should be kept rather than thrown in the trash. Among the items he saved was the letter.

Kerouac’s friend Neal Cassady wrote the author the letter, nicknamed the Joan Anderson letter, about a wild weekend in Denver. Kerouac has claimed that the letter inspired him to write On the Road in its unique style, though the author believed the letter to have been lost forever.

The letter will go up for auction on Dec. 17, the day the letter is actually dated by Cassady. The auction should allow Cassady’s 16,000-word letter to find a new home where it will hopefully not be hidden in a box for several more decades.

Read the full story at Time, as Spinosa and literary experts discuss the letter’s history and its significance.

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