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Lot 187

Jack Kerouac's Personally Owned "The Way of Zen," Signed & Inscribed with Haiku--Possibly Unpublished!

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Jack Kerouac's Personally Owned "The Way of Zen," Signed & Inscribed with Haiku--Possibly Unpublished!


Jack Kerouac's Personally Owned "The Way of Zen," Signed & Inscribed with Haiku--Possibly Unpublished!

A paperback edition of Alan W. Watts's "The Way of Zen" from the personal library of Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), the famous American writer who brought us "On The Road" (1957). Initialed by Jack Kerouac as "JK" and inscribed with ten words in his hand on the inside of the back cover facing the index. The pencil-inscribed inscription, a possibly unpublished haiku poem, reads: "1961 / Autumn - old rivalries / are worse, old / Friendships are deeper / JK." Also containing multiple pencil markings within the text and margins. Stamped on the title page with the Jack Kerouac Estate stamp and the raised blind seal from Executor of the Estate, John Sampas.

Alan W. Watts, "The Way of Zen" (New York: Mentor Books, 1959). 224pp. 12mo. Paperback first printing reprint of the original hardcover book published by Pantheon Books in 1957. Featuring four illustrations, Chinese calligraphic notes, and a Chinese pronunciation guide. Expected light wear consistent with age including minor wrinkles to the cover corners. The back cover shows light indentations corresponding to Kerouac's pencil inscription. Else clean and crisp.

Kerouac's haiku does not strictly follow the 5-7-5 syllable format of most haiku with its total of 17 syllables; instead, it follows a 6-3-5 pattern totaling 14 syllables. Yet, Kerouac's haiku is very traditional in two ways: it contains a seasonal reference, or "kigo"; and it establishes a deeply reflective tone:

"1961 / Autumn - old rivalries / are worse, old / Friendships are deeper / JK."

In addition, Kerouac has underlined, encircled, and starred sections of "Part Two: Principles and Practice," including the following excerpts:

- "In R.H. Blyth's arresting metaphor, when we were just about to swat the fly, the fly flew up and sat on the swatter."

Also marked with an asterisk in the margin, p. 131.

- "When this is seen to be true of the deliberate and the routine as of the surprising and unforeseen, one can agree with the Zen poet P'ang-yun: 'Miraculous power and marvelous activity - Drawing water and hewing wood!'"

The quotation is encircled, p. 132.

- "As soon as I recognize that my voluntary and purposeful action happens spontaneously 'by itself,' just like breathing, hearing, and feeling, I am no longer caught in the contradiction of trying to be spontaneous. There is no real contradiction, since 'trying' is 'spontaneity.'" p. 142

This book, carefully studied by Kerouac, testifies to the author's interest in Asian culture, spirituality, and religion. After being introduced to Buddhism in the mid-1950s, Kerouac devoted himself to its study, interpretation, and practice. His works "Some of the Dharma" (1955-56) and "The Dharma Bums" (1958) explore the mid-century American quest for enlightenment. As we have seen, Kerouac also experimented with haiku poetry.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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