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Collected Letters, 1944-1967 Paperback – January 25, 2005


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Collected Letters, 1944-1967 + The First Third + Off the Road
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142002178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142002179
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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, Cassady’s 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 writer’s correspondence into one volume for the first time, British editor Moore adeptly documents Cassady’s rise from teenaged inmate at the Colorado State Reformatory to chauffeur for Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters. Unfortunately, few of these letters record Cassady’s most famous adventures, such as the cross-country trip with Kerouac that inspired On the Road. The vast majority of the epistles concern Cassady’s 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 subject’s central narrative. Although there are a few literary gems within Cassady’s 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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. John
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Unless you already know the history of the beats quit well this book is fairly useless.
William C. Butler
This book is essential reading for fan's of the beats and should be on the bookshelf along with the letters of Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg.
Amazon Customer
The reader walks away from this novel feeling as though he'd been introduced to more of the real Cassady than he's ever seen before.
p74atrick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 21, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Neal Cassady is better known as the inspiration for the driver/companion Dean Moriarty in "On the Road", Cody in "Visions of Cody" and the real life driver of the next genration in "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test". Other than "The First Third" published by City Lights many years ago there is little actually written by this fascinating personality. These letters are give a good idea of the style of speaking, writing and living (good and bad) that touched so many people and crossed between the generations of the beats and the hippies.

Not always inspired, sometimes pedestrian, Cassady's voice is always compelling. This book is essential reading for fan's of the beats and should be on the bookshelf along with the letters of Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg. Fans of Ken Kesey, Ed McClanahan, Larry McMurtry, Gurney Norman, the Grateful Dead, etc. will appreciate this book as well.

It is sad to read how often Cassady talks of writing a new book when you know that he never really get around to doing it but, in a sense, he lived a life which became a part of many books. In that sense, as an inspiration, a many faceted character he is very much a part of literature and this will add deservingly to this recognition.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Mike Smith on April 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
Jack Kerouac is a great writer, who wrote some great books. Neal Cassady is the energetic, life-filled hero of many of them, including "On the Road," in which Neal is represented as "Dean Moriarty."

Tom Wolfe is another great writer, who wrote the amazing "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," in which Neal is also a prominent character, this time the driver of a psychedelic busful of hippies.

In these books, and in others, Neal Cassady stands out distinctly as a fascinating character worthy of study--a man with an almost bottomless manic energy, the sex drive of a large crowd, and a penchant for joyriding in stolen cars.

This book here, however, goes a little deeper, is a little more personal, and as a result, damages many of the romantic illusions that have been built around his character.

This is Neal's life in his own words, in words from letters meant only for his friends and lovers and family, not for the public. There is some dishonesty here, but still it's very intimate, and very disclosing.

This book shows the sides of Neal that were often downplayed in books about him, sides that would have made him a much less sympathetic character: the neglectful way he treated and cast aside his wives and children, the almost psychopathic detachment from the crimes he committed and the women he used, the anger and the bitterness over his lot in life, the general disloyalty, the pathetically unsuccessful attempts at trying to be a writer, and the transparent tries to make his often empty life seem more significant than it was and his often horrible choices seem less like choices and more like fate.

All that would be fine however, if he had only been a better writer.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kerouac fan on February 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
>

>

>

Now's your chance.......

Read between the lines of what Jack Kerouac

was saying in On the Road, or at least get closer

to his hero Dean Moriarty (real name Neal Cassady).

This book officially published this winter in the

USA and available on import in the UK is a

CAUSE CELEBRE of the Beat World. Possibly

the best Beat read you'll have had since On the Road.

Neal Cassady's Letters - produced by Carolyn

Cassady and others, brilliantly edited (and that

doesn't mean cut) by Beat authority Dave Moore.

Having read On the Road we think we know it all?

We don't know half of it. Neal's Letters flesh out

the legend. For instance they show the married side

of Neal with intimate letters between himself and

Carolyn, something On the Road barely touches on.

They reveal the extent of the 'manage a trois' which

existed between Neal, Carolyn and Jack.

You want something even spicier? Try the long letter

to Alan Ginsberg starting on p.199 ...or Diana's note

on Neal p.142-143, or Neal's outrageous letter starting

p.327 and you'll see why Neal Cassady joins The

Marquis de Sade, Casanova, and Rasputin as

a sexual enchanter.

Bristolian Dave Moore's meticulous annotation and footnotes

link the letters, explain them, and make a narrative of them.

They prove Neal an engaging writer who's free-form

style inspired Kerouac in his genius to make

a prose-poem of the tale.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jack Jones on August 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Neal Cassady fans rejoice! This is the book you've been waiting a long, long time for. If Neal has captured your imagination (he's certainly captured mine) surely you've been frustrated about how little information there is about him. Yes, he's Dean Moriarty, Cody Pomeray, Speed Limit, and Cowboy Neal. He even wrote an (labored, as you'll discover) autobiography, "First Third". But, in a way, none of it prepares you for these collected letters because it's within them that we get to see the many sides of the Neal Cassady legend, primarily in his own words.

The two aspects I enjoyed most about this book were his hopes to be a family man and his desire to be an author, favorite aspects I suppose because that's not how I saw him previously. He tried hard to be a good husband and father but his muse wouldn't let him. And in these letters you see the creative, free-wheeling writing ability he was capable of but just couldn't get together in book form. Kerouac credits Neal for inspiring the style he'd develope for "On the Road" and on, and throughout the 50's encourages him to continue his writing.

The bulk of this collection dates before 1957, before the publication of "On the Road" and the whole beat sensation. In that regard it's very special to have the inside look at these letters which at the time of their composition no one would have had the faintest clue would be published. These are letters between friends, aspiring artists and lovers when there was no email and long distance phone calls were a luxury. Neal's writing was sometimes pedestrian but at other times it would soar, making clear why Ginsburg, Kerouac, etc argued he was the greatest writer of the group.
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