From Publishers Weekly
Though he inspired the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, Beat icon Cassady never published a single book in his lifetime. A restless and uneven writer, he lacked the discipline of his more determined friends, noting himself in a 1948 letter to Kerouac, "My prose has no individual style as such
perhaps, words are not the way for me." But stylistically sound or not, Cassadys writing inspired a whole generation of authors, and, as evidenced by the copious letters he penned, his life was marked by artistic conflict and wanderlust. Compiling all of the thrice-married writers correspondence into one volume for the first time, British editor Moore adeptly documents Cassadys rise from teenaged inmate at the Colorado State Reformatory to chauffeur for Ken Keseys Merry Pranksters. Unfortunately, few of these letters record Cassadys most famous adventures, such as the cross-country trip with Kerouac that inspired On the Road. The vast majority of the epistles concern Cassadys failed love affairs and his inability to both keep a job and financially support his wives. Moore gives much needed historical commentary in places, although his decision to sporadically insert letters to Cassady from his ex-wives breaks up the flow of his subjects central narrative. Although there are a few literary gems within Cassadys body of work, such as his free-flowing "Joan Anderson" letter, for the most part, his letters prove that his most enduring legacy is his tremendous influence on his Beat friends.
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Neal Cassady--that happening, hard-living, hard-loving hero of the Beat culture is fully here--in his own words. Cassady was part raw sexuality, part inspiration for Kerouac and Ginsberg, part arrogant con man, and part insecure, indecisive drifter. The only thing we can be sure of is that Cassady possessed some major charisma. Women bore his children and his absences and not only coped with but even approved of his interchangeable partner approach. Men fell in love with him, too, whether sexually or in pure awe. Cassady's letters show this and more, revealing a sometimes manic yet incredibly insightful and electric mind and a man so charged with emotion for life and open to his urges that he seemed unable to settle anywhere (including within his various selves) for very long. Well edited and annotated, this volume is an essential addition to Beat literature that strengthens the notion of Cassady as a major Beat figure and, more important, presents Cassady as a man, not an icon. Janet St. JohnCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved