From Publishers Weekly
For those interested in the Beat Generation, this selection of letters reveals a brilliantly playful and spiritually struggling Neal Cassady (immortalized as Dean Moriarty in Kerouac's On the Road ), who was sentenced in 1958 to five years to life in the California prison system after selling small quantities of marijuana to federal agents. Addressing his wife as "Dear Diligent Dharma Decoding Directoress Carolyn," Cassady seems buoyant in his early letters. Transferred to San Quentin Prison, he becomes more somber, writing to his godfather, Father Harley Schmitt, about sinners and saints, and "the crime begotten Hell of this 412 712 912 foot cell." To his children, Cassady offers intensely whimsical history lessons about the Fourth of July and Mother Goose nursery rhymes. He apologizes to his wife for acting mean when she visits and writes of his eagerness to see her as his 1960 parole date approaches. However, as Carolyn Cassady writes in her introduction, her husband's release did not lead to a flowering of love but rather to a divorce; still, she states, "I have never stopped loving the man I knew he truly was."
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Unlike the Beats and hippies he inspired and who enshrined him in turn (most notably as Dean Moriarity in On the Road), Cassady (1926-68) left behind few writings other than a big mess of a novel, The First Third (1971). What a pleasure for literary bohemians and their scholars alike, then, that Carolyn Cassady, the author's long-suffering wife (see her Off the Road, 1990), has released these several dozen letters that Cassady wrote to her (and to a few others) while imprisoned in California for selling a small quantity of marijuana to some narcs. The letters speak of mundane concerns but mostly of matters of the spirit (at the time, Cassady was obsessed with Christianity), and are written in the sort of linguistic frenzy and often inspired wordplay that energized Kerouac & Co.: ``My Dear Dear Carolyn: Not since we last quaffed, or is it quiffed, gardenias together has 2 hrs. 43 min. & 12 seconds passed so quickly as did that amount on our Wed. afternoon of consoling inspiration....''; ``Dearest Better Half, Whole Wife, Forever Best Love, Sweetest Sour Suffering, My Sins Carolyn Closest, Christ Comrade Ceaselessly Cheerful....'' This isn't everyone's cup of tea, of course, spiked as it is with huge dollops of self-indulgence, but it's a welcome--if relatively minor- -literary and cultural offering that some will down like elixir. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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