LOS ANGELES (AP) — Plans to auction the lost letter that inspired Jack Kerouac to turn "On The Road" into a literary classic have been put on hold after the estates of Kerouac and the letter's author, Neal Cassady, made separate ownership claims to the 16,000-word missive.
Profiles in History spokeswoman Sabrina Propper said Wednesday the auction house's Dec. 17 sale has been "postponed indefinitely."
She declined to elaborate but the San Francisco Chronicle quoted Kerouac estate attorney Nick Mitrokostas as saying the estate believes the letter is its property.
Cassady's daughter Jami Cassady told The Associated Press her family believes it holds the copyright to the words in the letter and would like to eventually publish them.
She said both estates are filing court motions but a hearing is yet to be scheduled.
Kerouac said the correspondence, nicknamed "The Joan Anderson Letter," inspired him to scrap an early version of "On The Road" and rewrite it in three weeks in his friend's fast-paced, stream-of-consciousness style. He called the letter "the greatest piece of writing I ever saw," adding had it not been lost it would have transformed his friend and literary muse into a major literary figure himself.
Kerouac scholars have for decades considered it a key missing link in the author's legacy.
It was found by LA performance artist Jean Spinosa as she went through her late father's belongings.
"We want to be nice to Jeannie. We don't want to cut her out of anything," Jami Cassady said Wednesday, adding the estate has no problem with her selling the physical letter.
Kerouac believed it had been dropped off a houseboat in Sausalito, California, in 1955 after poet Allen Ginsberg sent it to a literary agent in hopes of having it published.
The former agent, Gerd Stern, always denied losing the letter.
"After 50 years, it's a blessing to be vindicated," he told the AP last month after it surfaced.