Tag Archives: on the road

mother and Jack Kerouac

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jack

 mother and Jack Kerouac

jack

Reading their love letters from before I was born is an eerie experience.

My mother met Jack Kerouac on a blind date arranged by Allen Ginsberg. It was January 1957. Kerouac at the time was penniless, 34 years old, burned out from frantic world wandering. My mother, Joyce Johnson, then 21, worked in book publishing as she slowly wrote and revised her first novel. Years later, in his novel “Desolation Angels,” Kerouac called her “an interesting young person, a Jewess, elegant, middleclass sad and looking for something.” He also wrote, “I still love her tonight.”

The correspondence between them, collected in the new book “Door Wide Open,” starts a few months after that first meeting, when Kerouac characteristically splits for Africa, then San Francisco, Mexico City and Florida. As he speeds from place to place, he sometimes asks my mother to join him, then abruptly changes his mind. “I admit I’m flipping and am bugged everywhere I go,” he writes from Berkeley, Calif., distraught as each new place offers no refuge, no vibration, no new vision.

When “On the Road” was published late that year, the Beats quickly went from underground cult to mainstream clichi. But the success of “On the Road” only increased Kerouac’s sense of isolation and despair, hastening his desertion from the cultural revolution he helped to invent. In the letters, he comes across as a mad, ruined genius, swinging between the “starrynight exstasies” of his writing binges and the squalid excesses of his alcoholic binges.

My mother’s letters radiate precocious self-awareness and tenderness. She seeks to lure Kerouac closer without frightening him away with any hint of commitment, and she also tries to dissuade him from his “desperate, gluttonous drinking,” his bitterness and the other demons that threaten to destroy him. “I remember the first party we went to last Fall,” she writes. “You said, ‘Protect me,’ and I wanted to with all my heart, but didn’t do a very good job, having all my old shynesses and especially my strange shyness of you.”

I feel a kind of shyness approaching these documents. My mother’s relationship with Kerouac ended six years before she met my father, painter Peter Pinchbeck, and eight years before my birth. There is something eerie about reading a parent’s early love letters; it gives you a vertiginous glimpse into the accidental processes that led to your own creation. Covering a span of less than two years, the letters not only suggest huge worlds of possibility that my mother could have lived, they also make me aware of the various ways these distant events shaped my own consciousness.

BEATNIK HIWAY- #KEROUAC’S LOWELL MA.

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coverKerouac’s Lowell: A Life on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers

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Photographs & Text by John Suiter

Pawtucket Falls from the White Bridge, Pawtucketville, Lowell, Massachusetts, March 1992. © John Suiter.

Pawtucket Falls from the White Bridge, Pawtucketville, Lowell, Massachusetts, March 1992 © John Suiter

From 1918 to ‘20, Kerouac’s parents, Leo and Gabrielle, with their first two children, Gerard and Caroline, lived on the first floor of the building at right—No. 9 Lupine Road, in Lowell’s Centralville section. In 1921 they moved to the second floor, and it was there that Jack was born—Jean Louis Lebris de Kerouac—at five p.m. on Sunday, March 12, 1922.

…..Conjuring his birth many years later in Doctor Sax, Kerouac recalled the afternoon in reds—the red river, red rocks, red rooftops, a red suppertime—and liked to say that one of the first sounds that he heard was the river ice cracking a mile away at the Pawtucket Dam.

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Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Turned Into Google Driving Directions & Published as a Free eBook

JACK KEROUAC’S ON  THE ROAD TURNED INTO GOOGLE DRIVING DIRECTOONS AND PUBLISHED AS A,FREE E BOOK
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http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1vGUFS/:M!q7pNWY:Q-53!U2N/www.openculture.com/2014/02/jack-kerouacs-on-the-road-turned-into-google-driving-directions.html/

Jack Kerouac’s On The Road Turned Into Google Driving Directions & Published as a Free eBook

THE HAUNTED LIFE:THE LOST NOVELLA’ BY JACK KEROUAC

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THE HAUNTED LIFE:THE LOST NOVELLA’ BY JACK KEROUAC

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‘The Haunted Life: The Lost Novella’, by Jack Kerouac

From left, Hal Chase, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs in Manhattan, c1944-45©Corbis

From left, Hal Chase, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs in Manhattan, c1944-45

The Haunted Life: The Lost Novella, by Jack Kerouac, Penguin Classics, RRP£20, 208 pages

Jack Kerouac, an author who was barely patient enough to punctuate his sentences, never mind sit still in one place, always claimed that he had lost the manuscript to his early novella The Haunted Life in the back seat of a yellow taxi cab. The truth is less dramatic: he probably forgot it in the closet of a Columbia University dorm room that had belonged to his fellow Beat writer Allen Ginsberg.

Peter Aspden

It resurfaced in a Sotheby’s auction 12 years ago, selling to an unnamed bidder for $95,600. The previous year, Kerouac’s most renowned manuscript, the famous On The Road scroll, had also sold at auction for a whopping $2.4m, which explains the sudden appearance of the earlier work.

Those relative values strike me as well-judged. The Haunted Life, now published for the first time and generously annotated and edited by Kerouac scholar Todd Tietchen, is a minor addition to the author’s corpus but not without interest. Kerouac wrote it at the age of 22, in the turbulent year of 1944, during which he was jailed as an accessory to murder, married his first wife Edie Parker to secure bail, and was then released.

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“I should now have material for a fine book . . . love, murder, diabolical conversations, all,” he wrote mischievously, but none of these promising themes finds its way into A Haunted Life. Instead we get a rehearsal for the semi-autobiographical exploration that would form the basis of Kerouac’s first major published work, The Town and the City.

Tietchen, in his introduction to the novella, believes that this early and methodical exposition of the author’s literary intentions is a significant rebuttal of the “public perception of Kerouac as a spontaneous word-slinger whose authorial approach merely complemented his Dionysian approach to life”. He casts the hedonistic writer as an improbable respecter of process, honing his ideas in this brisk workout.

In A Haunted Life, Kerouac’s concerns are refracted through Peter Martin, heading into his sophomore year at Boston College along with his friends Garabed Tourian and Dick Sheffield, based on the author’s real-life buddies Sebastian Sampas and Billy Chandler, both of whom had died in the war by the time Kerouac wrote the novella.

The three young men’s conversations skirt around some of the issues that preoccupied American intellectual life in the 1930s and 1940s: the end of the Great Depression, the US’s entry into the war, the exploitation of the working classes, and the possibility of romantic escape from all of those needling dilemmas.

Garabed and Dick respectively represent the leftist and liberationist ideals that animated those debates. In contrast, Peter’s frosty exchanges with his father Joe – clearly based on Kerouac’s own father Leo – see the young man wrestling with the bigotry of the preceding generation. In the novella’s very first pages, Peter drowns out the beginnings of one of his father’s rants by turning up Benny Goodman on the record player, an early reflection of Kerouac’s belief that jazz music’s freedom of form was the nemesis of sclerotic social views.

This opening feels stagey, as do the opening remarks between Peter and Garabed, clunky in their philosophical intent: “Poor Garabed,” says Peter. “Dostoevsky terrifies you with his Slavic portraits that remind you too much of yourself. You fear ugliness, you chase beauty and embrace it.”

As we focus on Peter’s interior life, touches of the freewheeling Kerouac begin to emerge in passages of existential celebration: “The morning sun, the swift clean smell in the air had called him back to life, called him back for more of the same – which at times held so much wonder that Peter deplored his physical limits. On a morning like this! – to be everywhere, be everyone at the same time, doing everything!”

Kerouac always intended The Haunted Life to become a multi-volume saga on the war, told through the story of the Martin family. “[It] will be a very sad book,” he explains in a note included here. “It can’t be otherwise: youth is shocked by maturity, but war adds to this shock enough to kill youth forever.”

But it is not for this melancholy tone that Kerouac would become best known, and it is clear from his musings that he was already looking ahead at a new America. In an outline for The Town and the City, he emphasises that the book’s ending will treat its characters well. “I write with gravity and gleefulness because I do not feel sceptical and clever about these things, and I believe that this is an American feeling. (No Joyce, no Auden, no Kafka has anything to say to a true American.)”

With that slap at the Old World, Kerouac launched himself to become one of the most exuberant adventurers of a new cultural landscape, whose heroes would include James Dean, Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley, characters who were infused with a sense of the limitless. Here, in this small book, are the tentative beginnings of a journey that was always going to lead to the open road.

Peter Aspden is the FT’s arts writer

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DAVID AMRAM REMEMBERS JACK KEROUAC

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DAVID AMRAM REMEMBERS JACK KEROUAC

DavidAmram, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac
from left to right: Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac,
David Amram, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso (with back to camera)

 

DAVID AMRAM REMEMBERS
(Originally written for Evergreen Review in 1969, published early 1970 at the request of publisher Barney Rossett as an obituary for Kerouac)

I used to see Jack often at the old Five Spot in the beginning of 1957, when I was working there. I knew he was a writer, and all musicians knew that he loved music. You could tell by the way he sat and listened. He never tried to seem hip. He was too interested in life around him to ever think of how he appeared. Musicians understood this and were always glad to see him, because we knew that meant at least one person would be I listening. Jack was on the same wave-length as we were, so it was never necessary to talk.

A few months later, poets Howard Hart and Philip Lamantia came by my place with Jack. They had decided to read their poetry with music, and Jack said he would join in, reading, improvising, rapping with the audience and singing along. Our first performance was in December of 1957 at the Brata Art Gallery on East 10th Street. It was the first jazz-poetry reading in New York. There was no advertising and it was raining, but the place was packed. Jack had become the most important figure of the time. His name was magic. In spite of the carping, whining put-downs by the furious critics, and the jealousy of some of his contemporaries for his overnight success (he had written ten books in addition to On The Road with almost no recognition), Jack hadn’t changed. But people’s reaction to him was sometimes frightening.

He was suddenly being billed as the ‘King of The Beatniks’, and manufactured against his will, as some kind of public Guru for a movement that never existed. Jack was a private person, extremely shy, and dedicated to writing. When he drank, he became much more expansive, and this was the only part of his personality that became publicized. The people who came to the Brata Gallery weren’t taste makers; they were friends.

A few months later, we began some readings at the Circle In The Square. Everyone improvised, including the light man, who had his first chance to wail on the lighting board. The audience joined in, heckling, requesting Jack to read parts of On The Road, and asking him to expound on anything that came into his head. He also would sing while I was playing the horn, sometimes making up verses. He had a phenomenal ear. It was like playing duets with a great musician.

Jack was proud of his knowledge of music and of the musicians of his time. He used to come by and play the piano by ear for hours. He had some wonderful ideas for combining the spoken word with music. A few weeks later, jazz-poetry became ‘Official Entertainment’, and a few months later was discarded as another bit of refuse, added to the huge mound of our junk culture. It was harder to dispose of Jack. The same journalist and radio and TV personalities who had heralded him were now ripping him to shreds. Fortunately, they couldn’t rip up his manuscripts. His work was being published, more widely read, and translated.

In early 1958, all of us went to Brooklyn College, where Jack, Phillip and Howard read. Jack spent most of the time answering the student’s questions with questions of his own. He was the down-home Zen master, and the students finally realized he wasn’t putting them on. He was showing them himself. If they wanted to meet the Author Jack Kerouac, they would have to read his books.

His public appearances were never to promote his books. They were to share a state of mind and a way of being. The only journalist who picked up on this was Al Aronowitz. He saw Jack as an artist.

In the spring of 1959, the film Pull My Daisy was made. Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Peter Orlovsky, Larry Rivers and myself – the Third Avenue All-Stars as one wit described us – appeared in it. Alfred Leslie directed it and Robert Frank filmed it. Jack had written the scenario, and after the film had been edited, Jack saw it. Because it was a silent movie, Jack was to narrate it, and I was to write the music afterwards. He, Allen, and Neal Cassady also wrote the lyrics for the title song Pull My Daisy, for which I wrote the music and was sung in the film by Anita Ellis. Jack put on earphones and asked me to play, so that he could improvise the narration to music, the way we had done at our readings. He watched the film, and made up the narration on the spot. He did it two times through spontaneously, and that was it. He refused to do it again. He believed in spontaneity, and the narration turned out to be the very best thing about the film. We recorded it at Jerry Newman’s studio. Jerry was an old friend of Jack’s from the early forties and afterwards we had a party-jam session that lasted all night. Jack played the piano, sang, and improvised for hours.

In the early sixties I used to see Jack when he would come in from Northport to visit town. Once, he called up at one in the morning and told me I had to come over so that he could tell me a story. I brought over some music to copy, and Jack spoke non-stop until 8:30 a.m., describing a trip he had made through North Africa and Europe. It was like hearing a whole book of his being read aloud, and Jack was the best reader of his own work, with the exception of Dylan Thomas, that I ever heard.

“That’s a fantastic story.” I told him. “It sounds just like your books.”

“I try to make my writing sound just the way I talk.” he said. His ideal was not to display his literary skill, but to have a conversation with the reader.

I told Jack about an idea I had for a cantata about the four seasons in America, using the works of American authors. He launched into a travelogue of his voyages around the country, and referred to writers I might look into. I took notes, and ended up reading nearly fifty books, to find the texts. I included a passage from his book Lonesome Traveler. The concert was at Town Hall [in New York City], and Jack wrote that he couldn’t come. It was the Spring of 1965, and he didn’t like being in New York.

Sometimes he would call from different parts of the country just to talk, and we continued to write to each other. In one letter he said “Ug-g-h. Fame is such a drag.” He wanted time to work, but found that success robbed him of his freedom. At the same time, he felt that he was forgotten. I told him that all the young people I met when I toured colleges loved his books. To many, he was their favorite writer. But writer meant something different now. It was what was being said, not how it was said. It was content that counted, not style. Jacks’ message was a whole way of being, and he was becoming more an influence than ever.

Truman Capote dismissed Jack’s work as “typing.” I never heard Jack put down another writer. He went out of his way to encourage young writers. His work reflects this spirit of generosity, kindness and love. This is why his “typing” is so meaningful to young people today. Jack was ahead of his time spiritually. Like Charlie Parker, Lenny Bruce and Lord Buckley, his work is constantly being rediscovered.

Through knowing Jack, I wrote some of my best music. Without knowing him, I never would have written my book. More important, young people all over the world are reading and rereading his work. His death only means the beginning of a new life for everyone who shares in the joy of knowing him through his books.

David Amram, October 24th. 1969

I Have Nothing to Offer Anybody-Jack Kerouac

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I Have Nothing to Offer Anybody

Jean-Louis “Jack” Lebris de Kerouac (play /ˈkɛruːæk/ or /ˈkɛrɵæk/; March 12, 1922 – October 21, 1969) was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation.  Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic spirituality, jazz, promiscuity, Buddhism, drugs, poverty, and travel. His writings have inspired other writers, including Ken Kesey, Bob Dylan, Eddie Vedder, Richard Brautigan, Thomas Pynchon, Lester Bangs, Tom Robbins and Will Clarke.  Kerouac became an underground celebrity and, with other beats, a progenitor of the Hippie movement, although he remained antagonistic toward it. In 1969, at age 47, Kerouac died from internal bleeding due to long-standing abuse of alcohol. Since his death Kerouac’s literary prestige has grown and several previously unseen works have been published. All of his books are in print today, among them: On the Road, Doctor Sax, The Dharma Bums, Mexico City Blues, The Subterraneans, Desolation Angels, Visions of Cody and Big Sur.

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