Tag Archives: Neal Cassady

Writers who partied: The myth of the lonesome author destroyed

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THE BEAT GENERATION

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THE BEAT GENERATION

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THE LAST GATHERING OF BEATS POETS & ARTISTS

THE LAST GATHERING OF BEATS POETS & ARTISTS, CITY LIGHTS BOOKS North Beach, San Francisco 1965

Lawrence Ferlinghetti wanted to document the 1965 Beat scene in San Francisco in the spirit of the early 20th century classic photographs of the Bohemian artists & writers in Paris.The Beats, front row L to R: Robert LaVigne, Shig Murao, Larry Fagin, Leland Meyezove (lying down), Lew Welch, Peter Orlovsky.

Second row: David Meltzer, Michael McClure, Allen Ginsberg, Daniel Langton, Steve (friend of Ginsberg), Richard Brautigan, Gary Goodrow, Nemi Frost.

Back row: Stella Levy, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Because this is a vertical image about half of the Beats attending are not shown.

Allen Ginsberg, Bob Donlon (Rob Donnelly, Kerouac’s Desolation Angels), Neal Cassady, myself in black corduroy jacket, Bay Area poets’ “Court Painter” Robert La Vigne & poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of his City Lights Books shop, Broadway & Columbus Avenue North Beach. Donlon worked seasonally as Las Vegas waiter & oft drank with Jack K., Neal looks good in tee shirt, Howl first printing hadn’t arrived from England yet (500 copies), we were just hanging around, Peter Orlovsky stepped back off curb & snapped shot, San Francisco spring 1956, 1956, gelatin silver print, printed 1984–97, 11 1/8 x 16 3/4 in. (28.3 x 42.6 cm), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Gary S. Davis. © 2012 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

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“He looked by that time like his father, red-faced corpulent W.C. Fields shuddering with mortal horror…” Thus reads the inscription of a photo depicting American icon Jack Kerouac and taken by Allen Ginsberg in 1964 — just a few years before the former’s death. Far from the exuberant youth depicted in earlier photos, this portrait offers an entirely different image of Kerouac: that of the aging alcoholic, slumped dejectedly in a battered armchair.

Beat Memories presents an in-depth look at the Beat Generation  as seen through the lens of Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997). Although well known for his poetry, Ginsberg was also an avid photo- grapher, capturing the people and places around him in spontaneous, often intimate snapshots. His black-and-white photographs include portraits of William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, and others, along with self-portraits. The images not only are revealing portrayals of celebrated personalities, but also convey the unique lifestyle and spirit of the Beats

The Beat movement, also called Beat Generation, American social and literary movement originating in the 1950s and centred in the bohemian artist communities of San Francisco’s North Beach, Los Angeles’ Venice West, and New York City’s Greenwich Village. Its adherents, self-styled as “beat” (originally meaning “weary,” but later also connoting a musical sense, a “beatific” spirituality, and other meanings) and derisively called “beatniks,” expressed their alienation from conventional, or “square,” society by adopting an almost uniform style of seedy dress, manners, and “hip” vocabulary borrowed from jazz musicians. Generally apolitical and indifferent to social problems, they advocated personal release, purification, and illumination through the heightened sensory awareness that might be induced by drugs, jazz, sex, or the disciplines of Zen Buddhism. Apologists for the Beats, among them Paul Goodman, found the joylessness and purposelessness of modern society sufficient justification for both withdrawal and protest.

Beat poets sought to liberate poetry from academic preciosity and bring it “back to the streets.” They read their poetry, sometimes to the accompaniment of progressive jazz, in such Beat strongholds as the Coexistence Bagel Shop and Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. The verse was frequently chaotic and liberally sprinkled with obscenities but was sometimes, as in the case of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956), ruggedly powerful and moving. Ginsberg and other major figures of the movement, such as the novelist Jack Kerouac, advocated a kind of free, unstructured composition in which the writer put down his thoughts and feelings without plan or revision—to convey the immediacy of experience—an approach that led to the production of much undisciplined and incoherent verbiage on the part of their imitators. By about 1960, when the faddish notoriety of the movement had begun to fade, it had produced a number of interesting and promising writers, including Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, Philip Whalen, and Gary Snyder, and had paved the way for acceptance of other unorthodox and previously ignored writers, such as the Black Mountain poets and the novelist William Burroughs.

In January 1949, Jack Kerouac failed to appear for an afternoon date with a woman called Pauline

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In January 1949, Jack Kerouac failed to appear for an afternoon date with a woman called Pauline

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Road Ready

‘The Voice Is All,’ by Joyce Johnson

By  JAMES CAMPBELL
Published: January 18, 2013    

In January 1949, Jack Kerouac failed to appear for an afternoon date with a woman called Pauline. He had told Allen Ginsberg he planned to marry her — “the finest woman I’ll ever know” — once she had unshackled herself from her truck-driver husband, who, according to Joyce Johnson, was accustomed to “slapping her around to keep her in line.” In the meantime, Kerouac began an affair with Adele Morales (later to become the second Mrs. Norman Mailer). His failure to keep the rendezvous with Pauline, however, had nothing to do with affection for Adele; rather, he had overslept after a night of sex games with Luanne Henderson, whom Jack’s muse Neal Cassady had married when she was 15, and who, according to their friend Hal Chase, was “quite easy to get . . . into bed.” The tryst had been engineered by Cassady, who was hoping to watch, Johnson says, to show Luanne, by then 18, “how little she meant to him.” Two days later, Kerouac called on Ginsberg and found Luanne “covered with bruises from a beating Neal had given her.” Johnson describes Kerouac as “shocked” by the sight; nevertheless, “they all went out to hear bebop,” partly financed by money stolen by Cassady. In response to being jilted, Pauline confessed her affair to her husband, who tried to burn her on the stove. Kerouac described her in his journal as a “whore.” All the while, Ginsberg can be heard in the background: “How did we get here, angels?”

Collection of Allen Ginsberg, via Sotheby’s

Jack Kerouac in his Columbia University football uniform, 1940s.

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THE VOICE IS ALL

The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac

By Joyce Johnson

489 pp. Viking. $32.95.

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This is an everyday story of the Beat Generation in late-1940s New York, a tale of crazy mixed-up kids who took a lot of drugs, dabbled in criminality — with two homicides among the statistics — lapsed into madness, were fond of identifying one another as “saints, saints,” but often had the barest notion of what it means to respect the individuality of other human beings. Yet three members of the inner circle, Kerouac, Ginsberg and William Burroughs, created experimental literary works of remarkable originality — in particular, “On the Road,” “Kaddish” and “Naked Lunch” — which read as freshly today as they did 50 years ago; perhaps, in an instance of that trick that the best art sometimes plays on us, more so.

Kerouac certainly makes a good subject, but there already exist about a dozen biographies (by Ann Charters, Barry Miles, Gerald Nicosia, among others), not to mention memoirs, an oral history — the excellent “Jack’s Book” (1978) — and wider surveys of the Beat Generation. In “Minor Characters” (1983), Johnson wrote about her affair with Kerouac at the time of publication of “On the Road.” She now steps back to a period of Kerouac’s life with which she has no direct acquaintance, tracing the story from his origins in a French Canadian family in Lowell, Mass., to New York in 1951, where the book ends with a rare citation from ­Kerouac’s journals: “I’m lost, but my work is found.”

Johnson justifies the retelling of what is in outline a familiar tale by the fact of having gained access to the vast Kerouac archive, “deposited in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library in 2002.” So far, so good. No large-scale Kerouac biography, so far as I am aware (“The Voice Is All” lacks a bibliography), has appeared since that date. Unfortunately, Johnson was apparently refused permission to quote at length from the journals and working drafts among Kerouac’s papers. The result is a life in paraphrase.

The method gives rise to frustration. In 1945, for example, Kerouac began writing a novel called “I Wish I Were You,” a reworking of the story of the killing of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr in 1944. Together, Kerouac and Burroughs had previously written “And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks,” a collaboration on the same subject that eventually saw the light of day in 2008. According to Johnson, “I Wish I Were You” is a different beast: “In two successive drafts of the first 100 pages, Jack put in all the textural detail that had been left out of ‘Hippos’ and even returned with renewed confidence to the lyricism he had abandoned just the year before. It was really quite brilliant, the best prose he had written so far

about Neal Cassady, poems and recordings

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about Neal Cassady, poems and recordings

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images (41)RARE FOOTAGE OF NEIL CASSADY DRIVING FURTHUR

The Grateful Dead used to let Neal ramble on ( usually while tripping ) between sets. You can hear the beginnings of Lovelight ..I knew I should have wore more paisley
NEAL CASSADY TALKING

Grateful Dead & Neal Cassady July 23, 1967 – Strait Theater – San

Neal Cassady biography
NAME: Neal Cassady
OCCUPATION: Writer
BIRTH DATE: February 08, 1926
DEATH DATE: February 04, 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Salt Lake City, Utah
PLACE OF DEATH: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Full Name: Neal Cassady Jr.
AKA: Neal Cassady

Best Known For
Neal Cassady was a key figure of the Beat movement. The character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is based on him.

Synopsis

Born in Utah on February 8, 1926, Neal Cassady became a key figure of the Beat movement and an inspiration to his writer friends. Cassady’s magnetic energy and wild spirit is immortalized in the character based on him, Dean Moriarty of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Later in life, Cassady joined Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and fell into drugs. He died as a result, on February 4, 1968.

Contents
Synopsis
Early Life
Meeting the Beats
On the Road
Drug Use and Death

Early Life

Neal Cassady Jr. was born on February 8, 1926, in Salt Lake City, Utah. His mother died when he was 10, and he was raised by his alcoholic father in Denver, Texas. Cassady stole cars, hitchhiked, and was in and out of reform schools. He spent a year in jail at the age of 18.

Meeting the Beats

In 1946, Cassady traveled to New York City to visit a friend at Columbia University. There, he met Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, all of whom were enthralled by Cassady’s energetic persona. He moved to New York City with his 16-year-old wife, LuAnne Henderson, who quickly returned home. Cassady remained in the city, and though he claimed to be straight, began a sexual relationship with Allen Ginsberg. The poet was deeply in love with Cassady; his groundbreaking poem “Howl” calls Cassady a “secret hero.”

Cassady learned how to write fiction from Kerouac, who based the character Dean Moriarty from 1957’s On the Road on his beloved friend.

On the Road

Cassady was relentlessly energetic. His free-flowing, detailed letters to Kerouac heavily influenced the novelist’s style. Cassady’s own prose is characterized by the same breathlessness, but he never finished a book; he struggled to package his ever-expanding ideas into sentences.

In 1947, Cassady met Carolyn Robinson and moved to San Francisco for her. One year later, his marriage to LuAnne was annulled and he wed Carolyn. She had his child, and the family moved to Los Gatos, a suburb of San Jose where Cassady worked on the Southern Pacific railroad.

Cassady was notoriously unfaithful, sometimes cheating with multiple women in a single day. Carolyn also found him in bed with Ginsberg more than once. While she stayed home and raised the couple’s three children, Cassady road-tripped across the country while sleeping with his ex-wife. In 1950, he wed Diana Hansen, a model pregnant with his child, while he was still married to Carolyn. With Cassady’s encouragement, Carolyn eventually had an affair with Kerouac. In his novel Big Sur, Kerouac documents this experience.

Drug Use and Death

In 1958, Cassady was arrested for selling marijuana and served two years in San Quentin Prison. Fed up, Carolyn divorced Cassady in 1963. Afterward, he joined author Ken Kesey and his group, the Merry Pranksters, on a cross-country, drug-filled road trip. Their adventures are detailed in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Heavy drug use ultimately led to Cassady’s death, on February 4, 1968. He was found on railroad tracks after a party in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. His autobiography was published posthumously as The First Third.

© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.

Neal Cassady biography

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Quick Facts
NAME: Neal Cassady
OCCUPATION: Writer
BIRTH DATE: February 08, 1926
DEATH DATE: February 04, 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Salt Lake City, Utah
PLACE OF DEATH: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Full Name: Neal Cassady Jr.
AKA: Neal Cassady

Best Known For

Neal Cassady was a key figure of the Beat movement. The character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is based on him.

Synopsis
Born in Utah on February 8, 1926, Neal Cassady became a key figure of the Beat movement and an inspiration to his writer friends. Cassady’s magnetic energy and wild spirit is immortalized in the character based on him, Dean Moriarty of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Later in life, Cassady joined Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and fell into drugs. He died as a result, on February 4, 1968.

Contents
Synopsis
Early Life
Meeting the Beats
On the Road
Drug Use and Death

Early Life

Neal Cassady Jr. was born on February 8, 1926, in Salt Lake City, Utah. His mother died when he was 10, and he was raised by his alcoholic father in Denver, Texas. Cassady stole cars, hitchhiked, and was in and out of reform schools. He spent a year in jail at the age of 18.

Meeting the Beats

In 1946, Cassady traveled to New York City to visit a friend at Columbia University. There, he met Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, all of whom were enthralled by Cassady’s energetic persona. He moved to New York City with his 16-year-old wife, LuAnne Henderson, who quickly returned home. Cassady remained in the city, and though he claimed to be straight, began a sexual relationship with Allen Ginsberg. The poet was deeply in love with Cassady; his groundbreaking poem “Howl” calls Cassady a “secret hero.”

Cassady learned how to write fiction from Kerouac, who based the character Dean Moriarty from 1957’s On the Road on his beloved friend.

On the Road

Cassady was relentlessly energetic. His free-flowing, detailed letters to Kerouac heavily influenced the novelist’s style. Cassady’s own prose is characterized by the same breathlessness, but he never finished a book; he struggled to package his ever-expanding ideas into sentences.

In 1947, Cassady met Carolyn Robinson and moved to San Francisco for her. One year later, his marriage to LuAnne was annulled and he wed Carolyn. She had his child, and the family moved to Los Gatos, a suburb of San Jose where Cassady worked on the Southern Pacific railroad.

Cassady was notoriously unfaithful, sometimes cheating with multiple women in a single day. Carolyn also found him in bed with Ginsberg more than once. While she stayed home and raised the couple’s three children, Cassady road-tripped across the country while sleeping with his ex-wife. In 1950, he wed Diana Hansen, a model pregnant with his child, while he was still married to Carolyn. With Cassady’s encouragement, Carolyn eventually had an affair with Kerouac. In his novel Big Sur, Kerouac documents this experience.

Drug Use and Death

In 1958, Cassady was arrested for selling marijuana and served two years in San Quentin Prison. Fed up, Carolyn divorced Cassady in 1963. Afterward, he joined author Ken Kesey and his group, the Merry Pranksters, on a cross-country, drug-filled road trip. Their adventures are detailed in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Heavy drug use ultimately led to Cassady’s death, on February 4, 1968. He was found on railroad tracks after a party in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. His autobiography was published posthumously as The First Third.

© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.

Neal Cassady , ( Feb 8 , 1926 – Feb 4 , 1968 )

San Miguel D’Allende , Mexico
February 4 ,1968 … midnight

Dead from extreme expossure
four days short of forty – two

only fitting , next to a railroad track
He had many words to haul back

The wolf sleeps next to the silver rail
Howling at a silver moon that fell

I hear he drove a topless Cadillac
through San Francisco’s streets

With the top down
smilling free , it was meant to be

Life is a quasar

/Carolyn-Cassady-tells-her-story-of-Jack-Kerouac-On-The-Road-and-the-Beat-Generation & “Caroly Cassady” By Phil Hebblethwaite

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CAROLY CASSADY TELLS HER STORY OF KEROUAC ON THE ROAD

 MY LATE HUSBAND DAVE CHRISTY  HAD CAROUN CASSADY OVER TO LUNCH. HE LIVED ON MONTREAL AT THE TIME AND KNEW CAROLYN. HE TOLD ME IT WAS A FUN LUNCH SHE WAS EASY TO TALK TO AND VERY PLEASANT. I WISH I COULD RECOUNT MORE OF THE STORY, BUT UNFORTUNATELY  CAN’T REMEMBER THE REST. ANA

Carolyn Cassady

Carolyn Cassady was portrayed as Camille, the symbol of all that was stable, in On the Road. Urged on by her husband, she and Kerouac had an affair. Photograph: Christopher Felver/Corbisp

In her book Off the Road (1990), Carolyn Cassady, who has died aged 90, charted her extraordinary life with the Beat writers Neal Cassady, her husband, and Jack Kerouac, her lover. Carolyn was an unlikely, and in many ways an unwilling, Beat icon herself. When she met Neal in Colorado in 1947, Carolyn was a student of theatre design at the University of Denver, having attended a smart east coast ladies’ college; he was a car thief, an energetic seducer of women and occasionally men, and possessed of a restless, manic energy that had already bewitched Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. He also had a teenage bride, LuAnne Henderson. Soon after they had begun their relationship, Carolyn crept into Neal’s flat one morning to give him a surprise, only to find him asleep with LuAnne on one side and Ginsberg on the other. After Carolyn relocated to San Francisco, Neal followed her. They married in 1948.

Kerouac’s novel On the Road (1957) was based on the cross-country dashes he made from New York with Neal (who became the wild-man hero Dean Moriarty in the novel) and LuAnne (who became Marylou, in the passenger seat in the book). Meanwhile, Carolyn – who had stayed at home, raising the first of her and Neal’s three children – was portrayed as Camille, the symbol of all that was stable and decent (or, for the youthful madcaps with an interest in Rimbaud and Baudelaire, bourgeois).

Carolyn Elizabeth Robinson was born in Lansing, Michigan, the youngest child of five. Her father was a biochemist and her mother was a teacher. She moved with her family to Nashville, Tennessee, where she went to school, and then went to Bennington College, Vermont, at the time an all-female institution.

Humorous and level-headed about most things, she had a blind spot where Neal was concerned. On a gambling kick, Neal persuaded Natalie Jackson, a girl he lived with in San Fransisco during the late 1950s, to pose as Carolyn and draw out the family savings, which he lost at the racetrack. From almost the moment of their meeting, Neal was unfaithful to Carolyn, sometimes more than once a day. When his adventures – on the road, or in another’s bed – had paled, she welcomed his return.

Kerouac, too, she defended against his detractors. Urged on by Neal, she and Kerouac had an affair. Neal had played the same game earlier, with Kerouac and LuAnne, which Carolyn described fondly in Off the Road. By contrast, Carolyn had little liking for Ginsberg whose lifelong claims on Neal (resembling, at times, the claims of a thwarted spouse) she resented deeply.

Carolyn claimed that her association with Neal “made my life”, and his boisterous, carnal presence certainly made her book. Yet her memoir is so buoyant even in the darkest troughs of her recollections, or when she is excusing the inexcusable, that it seems a pity she did not write more. Her artistic interests led her towards the theatre, then to drawing and painting, and she took several of the most famous photographs of Neal and Kerouac in the 1950s.

Neal died in 1968, by which time he and Carolyn had been living apart for several years. Her memoir Heart Beat: My Life with Jack and Neal was published in 1976. She wrote the foreword to As Ever: The Collected Correspondence of Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady (1977). A collection of Kerouac’s letters to Carolyn was published in 1983, and Carolyn wrote the introduction to Neal Cassady: Collected Letters, 1944-67, published in 2005.

In the film Heart Beat (1980), written and directed by John Byrum, Sissy Spacek played Carolyn and Nick Nolte played Neal. Some people encountering Carolyn in later life were surprised to discover that she was not more hip, more Beat, more turned-on. By the time I met her in the late 1990s, she was based in a cluttered flat in Belsize Park, north-west London. A quietly spoken grandmother, she enjoyed the cultural aspects of the city and her interest in drugs extended no further than a packet of menthol slim cigarettes. She was a follower of Edgar Cayce, a believer in reincarnation, whose homespun wisdom – “The stronger you are, the tougher the tests” – provided her with support in difficult times.

Cassady later settled in Bracknell, Berkshire. She is survived by her children, John, Jami and Cathy; and her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.

• Carolyn Cassady, writer, born 28 April 1923; died 20 September 2013

Remembering My Friend Carolyn Cassady, Late Queen of the Beat Poets

By Phil Hebblethwaite

Carolyn Cassady

Of all that was said and written about last year’s film adaptation of Kerouac’s classic beat novel On the Road, nothing was more perfect than this quote that Carolyn Cassady gave to the Telegraph about actor Garrett Hedlund, who played the character (Dean Moriarty) based on her late husband, Neal. “I think he was the most boring person I have ever met,” she told journalist Peter Standford. “He didn’t ask me a single question about Neal, but instead told me how his turkeys in Minnesota bobbed their heads to Johnny Cash music. And then he came here, chauffeur-driven car waiting outside, sat in the chair where you are now, and read to me from his diary for what felt like four hours.”

Carolyn, who died last Friday, September 20th at the age of 90, loved throwing rocks at the Beat industry from the sidelines. The way she explained it, there was always interest, but intense fascination came around every five years or so, as a new film, or book of letters, or whatever, was released—at which point, she became an excellent interviewee. An arch Anglophile, she moved to the UK in 1983, and as widow of the man who inspired On the Road and Allen Ginsberg’s early poetry—and then, with Neal’s blessing, became Kerouac’s lover—she was a dynamite source for an article.

Carolyn used the opportunities she was offered to try to get her realistic, less-mythical side of the story across. It wasn’t always what journalists and editors wanted to hear. The last time I sat in that same chair Garrett Hedlund had occupied—in her immaculately kept mobile home near Bracknell in Berkshire, close to the hospital where she passed away—was in 2004 on assignment from style mag Dazed & Confused. They’d asked me to profile Carolyn. It didn’t go well. Or rather, I was happy with the article I filed, then Dazed editors added something incorrect into the piece that ran, which was devastating to Carolyn and me.

I had history. As a teenage Beat fanatic, I’d been a visitor at Carolyn’s flat in Belsize Park in London, before she moved to the Home Counties. I’d bring friends and alcohol around, and we also met a couple of times at the Chelsea Arts Club, where she’d been given a complimentary membership that she felt bad about seldom using. Perhaps, over the course of four years in the mid-1990s, when I was in my late teens, we saw each other ten times, and then my visits became less frequent. In the meantime, aged 18, I had traveled to the States and drove a $500 Chevrolet van from the east coast to the west. Carolyn had given me and my two friends Ginsberg’s number in New York—more of that later. I only went to her home in Berkshire twice, the second time for the Dazed interview. In fact, the last contact I had with her was in 2004.

I dreaded having to call Carolyn and tell her that something had been added to the piece that she would find offensive. It wasn’t my fault, but it felt like a betrayal. Here was a woman who had helped me secure a place to study at the University of California, Berkeley on a free, one-year student exchange program when I was 21 by writing me a highly flattering letter of reference. My dad, the charmer, still thinks that’s the only reason I got in. For the Dazed piece, she also trusted me with her invaluable collection of monochrome slides of Jack and Neal that she took in the 50s, which remain the most iconic images of the two heroes, including the one below that for years was the cover of the paperback version of On the Road.

Carolyn’s husband, Neal Cassady (left) poses with her lover, Jack Kerouac

Those images provided her primary source of income, and there was a charge made to Dazed for their use with the article. Carolyn was not wealthy, and in my interview she bemoaned the fact that a raincoat of Kerouac’s had been bought some years earlier by Johnny Depp for a staggering $10,000. After Neal died in 1968 (Jack died a year after that), she’d simply got rid of clothing and items of no particular value to her. Never, she said, did she imagine that a Hollywood superstar would end up paying what was actually over $50,000 for a number of Kerouac’s belongings. Clearly, Neal’s possessions would be of considerable interest, as well.

Carolyn wrote a book, too—Off the Road—but it never sold well, not least because it paints a picture of the Beats that’s contrary to the legend created by the novels and poems. For the most part, she wrote, Neal was a dedicated, hard-working family man—warm, attentive, and responsible—although he certainly caused Carolyn misery by suddenly charging off in search of his fabled “kicks.” Often, his trips were organized, planned ahead, and taken with Carolyn’s permission. But not always.

“Neal was a split personality,” Carolyn told me in 2004. “There were fundamental things that ran through him like compassion and non-violence, but there were unquestionably two sides to him. The other Neal had a wild nature driven by sexual desire.”

She claimed to know little of that side of her husband, except indirectly, and in that respect there had always been a naivety to Carolyn that was central to her charm and good nature. (To be clear here, Neal’s open-mindedness to sex was the reason he had no issue with his wife having an affair with Kerouac, and Carolyn never had much of a sex life with Neal because she found him to be too aggressive a lover. Also, Carolyn and Jack showed no affection towards each other in front of Neal.) My interview for Dazed was hooked around the publication of a collection of Neal’s frantic letters that were the primary inspiration for Kerouac’s “first thought, best thought” spontaneous prose style. By reading some of them for the first time, decades after they were written, Carolyn claimed to still be finding out about Neal. For instance, she learned that many of the cars he claimed to have “borrowed” were never returned to their owners. “I always said that he would never deprive anybody of anything,” she said. “In these letters he describes how he stole them, stripped them, and sold them.”

A mugshot of Neal Cassady taken by Denver police.

She also said she had only recently worked out exactly why Neal—raised on skid row in Denver by an alcoholic father—was attracted to her. “It’s taken me 60 years to deduce that one of his main ambitions in life was to become respectable,” she said. “The minute he met me he realized that here was an educated girl from a middle-upper class family and here was his passport. I came along and that was that.”

Neal was more than aware of the myth that was being built around him. “Neal Cassady did everything a novel does,” Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, once said about him, “except he did it better because he was living it and not writing about it.” That idea caused him grief. Towards the end of his life, he once referred to himself as “Keroassady”—a half-fictional man—and it’s telling that he said the following to Allen Ginsberg’s boyfriend, Peter Orlovsky, at the famous Six Gallery reading in San Francisco, 1955: “Come over here, Peter, come stand next to me.” When asked why, he replied: “Well, I don’t know anybody here.” And yet, at that reading Ginsberg first presented “Howl,” his soon-to-be-banned poem, in which is written: “N.C., the secret hero of these poems, cocksman, and Adonis of Denver.”

When Neal first read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, he felt summoned by Kesey, who had partly based the book’s lead character, Randle Patrick McMurphy, on Dean Moriarty from On the Road. Kesey lived near the Cassadys in Palo Alto, California, south of San Francisco. He’d been away in Oregon helping his brother set up a creamery, and when he returned home one day, he discovered Neal on his lawn bouncing up and down like an excited kid or a boxer getting ready for a bout. Kesey introduced himself. “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,” Neal jabbered back feverishly, “Why hello, Chief.”

Kesey and Cassady became friends and when, in 1964, The Merry Pranksters—the loose band of intellectual misfits and acid missionaries who had been gathering around Kesey—took off across America, Neal was recruited to drive their psychedelic painted bus. The hero of the Beat Generation was now at the heart of the hippy movement—single-handedly connecting two revolutionary generations—but by 1964 he was fast becoming a tragic, drug-addled figure, and something of a parody of himself. He would play off his own legend, have sex with hippy girls and, fueled by amphetamines, talk continuously.

“In the beginning I said, ‘Don’t ever bring that Kesey person here,’” Carolyn told me. “But then he came and cooked dinner and he was so good to me. God, he was nice. Any time he was going to write or produce something about Neal, he would call me and say, ‘Come along, you have be part of it.’ I got to go backstage at Grateful Dead concerts. It’s not something I’d listen to ever, but I went because of the personalities. I liked all the people. I just didn’t like their lifestyle. And I was against the drugs. I think they destroyed Kesey. The stuff he wrote after he got into drugs is just rubbish.”

Eventually, Carolyn and Kesey fell out and it’s somewhat typical of her that she had shaky relationships with nearly all the Beats who made it through the 60s.

The ongoing attraction of the Beats is very easy to understand. At the core of the novels and poems are the twin ideals of space and speed, and those two things will forever seduce young people, wherever they come from. The director of On the Road—the Brazilian Walter Salles, who also directed The Motorcycle Diaries—first read Kerouac’s book in 1956 when he was at university. At the time, Brazil was under a military dictatorship. “We were living in a country where freedom was such an impossible goal to attain,” he said before the film’s release, “and here were those characters that were trying to live everything in the flesh and not vicariously, trying to find that last American frontier and the frontier within themselves. It had a profound impact on me.”

The book had a profound impact on me, too, leading me and two friends to work for a few months after we left school, save up a couple of grand between us and take off on our own Beat-like adventure. My dad had told me that under no circumstances we were to buy a car and attempt to drive cross-country, so we bought a van instead and drove 10,000 miles from Boston to San Francisco, via the Deep South, over the course of almost four months. We slept in the back of the van, even in the inner city, and ran out of money a long time before we made it to California. Almost unbelievable to think of it now (we were three 18-year-olds who knew nothing about anything), but we made it across by singing for our suppers—my friends, both called Andy, were talented guitar players and I learned harmonica. Many mornings we were woken by the police, but we never got in serious trouble and, of course, the first pit-stop when we reached San Francisco, after a treacherous crossing of the Rockies in freak snow storms, was the City Lights Bookstore—spiritual home of the Beats.

The letter of reference Carolyn wrote to the University of California on the author’s behalf

I sent Carolyn a postcard from there, and later told her that we’d never managed to meet up with Ginsberg in New York, despite her kindly asking him if we could visit. We called but the phone was answered by a boy our age (Ginsberg often, ahem, had a young live-in student at his Lower East Side apartment) who scared us off. As one of the two Andys remembers, “I think it all seemed a bit far-fetched and we didn’t push it any further.”

“All along the roadside, you see the smattered and charred remains of people who had fairly loose heads and who, in a effort to emulate Cassady, burned themselves,” hippy leader Wavy Gravy once said to Neal Cassady’s biographer, William Plummer. “I’m not talking about ten or 20 people. I’m talking about the hundreds who read On the Road and were turned on by the Prankster mystique and who wanted nothing more than to be Neal Cassady.”

I never wanted to get burned, although I did return to America the next year with a student loan and took off on another trip. By the time Carolyn had helped me get to Berkeley, my interests in books and music had moved on. In short, I bleached my hair and became a raver. There are, though, two things from my years as a Beat freak that will forever be sacred to me. When I took those slides down to a photographic shop in Clerkenwell to get prints made up for the Dazed story, I helped myself (with Carolyn’s permission) to two prints of my own, which I treasure—one of her looking gorgeous in the 50s, and the same one of Neal and Jack that you see above. And when I last saw Carolyn, she played me something I feel extraordinarily privileged to have heard: a tape recording, never (to my knowledge) released, of her, Jack and Neal reading to each other and fooling about. Neal begins by reciting a passage from one of his favorite writers, Proust, before Jack takes over and rattles through an excerpt from his book, Dr. Sax. That’s how Carolyn remembers her husband and his best friend—her lover—and it’s not surprising she made it clear that she wouldn’t be seeing the film of On the Road.

Carolyn Cassady was born in Lansing, Michigan, US on April 28, 1923. She died in Bracknell, Berkshire, England on September 20, 2013.

This piece is adapted from one that published previously in the Stool Pigeon.

Follow Phil on Twitter: @phil_hebble

THE BEAT GENERATION IN THE COUNTERCULTURE HALL OF FAME

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Video: The Beat Generation enters the Counterculture Hall of Fame

The Beat Generation enters the Counterculture Hall of Fame – Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs were inducted into the High Times Counterculture Hall of Fame in 1999.

 

“TRANCED FIXATIONS” KEROUAC’S BREAKTHROUGH

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“Tranced Fixations” — Kerouac’s Breakthrough

Voice_is_Allbig.jpgThe following is excerpted from The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouacpublished by Viking, 2012.

On October 7, 1951, after a gloomy Sunday when he seemed to be making no progress on the chapters about Neal Cassady he was adding to On the Road,  Jack went to Birdland to hear the alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, who recently had come into his own as a leading innovator of cool jazz.  During Konitz’s solo in “I Remember April,” which he played as if it were “the room he lived in,” his music sounded “so profoundly interior” to Jack that he was sure very few people would understand it. In fact, he compared Konitz’s extended phrases to the sentences he was writing lately, sentences whose direction seemed mysterious until the “solution” was suddenly unveiled in a way that shed light backward on everything that had preceded it. Admiring Konitz for refusing to make the concessions that would gain him a wider audience, Jack saw that both he and the musician were essentially doing the same thing — attempting to communicate “the unspeakable visions of the individual.” Grabbing a pencil, he scribbled a reminder to himself: “BLOW AS DEEP AS YOU WANT TO BLOW.” It was a rule he would start to follow in his work, despite his continued brooding about his tormenting inability to finish his second novel.

When Jack wasn’t writing in his cell-like basement room, he often roamed the surrounding streets of Richmond Hill, where one day he saw a crowd gathered in an empty lot.  A bloody fetus had been found there, dumped into the weeds in a paper bag. Shaken, he returned home, his reeling thoughts terrifying him, for it seemed he could hold on to none of them, making him wonder about the effect alcohol was having on his brain. If his mind was going, how could he ever finish On the Road?  Unable to calm himself, he broke down into a prayer for forgiveness.  The dead baby apparently reminded him of his guilty role in the conception of the one his ex-wife was carrying. Even the look Jack had been unable to prevent himself from taking at the red flesh of the fetus seemed to contribute to his guilt. He spent the next couple of days convinced he was being punished for his sins by losing the ability to write.

On October 15, Jack was still in a state of panic when he met Ed White in a Chinese restaurant near Columbia. Although Ed assured him his block was only temporary, this did nothing to improve Jack’s mood.  Changing the subject to his own work, Ed showed Jack the pocket sketchbook in which he had been making drawings of  architectural details. This led him to an idea he thought Jack should try out — a way for him to ease back into writing: “Why don’t you sketch in the street like a painter, but with words?”

As an experiment in which nothing was really at stake, “sketching” immediately gave Jack what he most needed — the freedom to write his “interior music” just as it came to him, removing the inhibiting presence in his mind of the imaginary reader.  He was about to discover what he had been looking for — a way to write passages in which he would seize the peak moment of initial inspiration and ride it through to the end, without interrupting the flow of imagery.  Sketching would finally dissolve the barrier between poetry and prose.

The day after seeing Ed, Jack took a notebook and walked to Sutphin Boulevard, a skidrow-like area in working-class Jamaica, where he sketched two places that had a time-stopped feeling about them.  The first was an old railroad-car diner permeated by a brown “FOODY” smell that reminded him in a Proustian way of the aroma of countless American diners, of parochial school and hospital kitchens, of greasy hamburger pans soaking in sinks. The next scene he colored in shades of gray, a dilapidated B-movie theater, adjoined by a filthy hotdog stand with its surrounding pavement littered with cigarette butts and chewing gum.  No sign of entropy escaped Jack’s eye — he searched out the broken bulbs behind the holes in the glass facing of the Capricio Theater’s marquee, saw how the diner’s scarred wooden counter resembled “the bottoms of old courtroom  benches.” Without knowing it, he had just written the opening of Visions of Cody. Somehow he’d been able to induce in himself an exceptional state of awareness that gave his portrayals of these scenes a heightened immediacy that went beyond realism.

The act of writing requires entry into a meditative state in which the tension between what the writers knows or feels and the peculiar need to put it into words upon a page can be resolved.  But sketching demanded something more from Jack — abandonment to a “tranced fixation” on the object, a deeper way of dreaming upon what he saw.  “Everything activates in front of you in myriad profusion,” he would explain to Allen Ginsberg, revealing that “sometimes I got so inspired I lost consciousness I was writing.” But there seemed to be an inherent danger in becoming what Yeats once called, “a man helpless before the contents of his own mind.” There began to be a palpable tension between the deepening melancholy that made Jack crave alcohol and the addictive exhilaration the intensification of his creative energy was giving him.

Meanwhile, not even alcohol could hold back the discoveries that were transforming his writing.  On October 25th, he went to sketch the old Forty-seventh Street El station.  In the men’s room, the way the yellow-painted walls contrasted with the dark brown woodwork and stamped tin ceiling summoned up a picture in Jack’s mind of the imitation wainscoting he’d noticed in flophouses out west.  When he returned to Richmond Hill, after taking a long walk down the Bowery to Chinatown, he was able to resume his sketching, evoking images of what he’d seen during his walk with no loss of intensity. By the following night he was sure that the sketches in his notebook were far superior to all the “oil” painting he’d been doing for On the Road and that he’d just had the “greatest” of all his Octobers.

 

THIS IS THE BEAT GENERATION BY JOHN CLELLON HOLMES

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THE COUNTERCULTURE IN PHOTOS

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THE COUNTERCULTURE