16,000 amphetamine-fueled, stream-of-consciousness words
November 23, 2014 9:05 PM   Subscribe

"It was the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better'n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves." After reading Neal Cassady's 16,000 word letter, Jack Kerouac threw out his draft of On the Road and started over, in the style he's now famous for. Ginsberg took the letter and lost it. Kerouac thought it had fallen over the side of a house boat. But now the Joan Anderson letter has been found.

About one third of the Joan Anderson Letter had been copied before the letter was lost.
posted by alms (18 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow. Cool. Neal was at the heart of the two greatest American counter-culture movements of the 20th century. I'll certainly be interested to hear him in his own words. I just watched "Magic Trip" hoping to get a better idea about who Neal was. I think it took knowing him to appreciate his genius, but now maybe we'll get a chance to better appraise him.
posted by karst at 9:55 PM on November 23, 2014


I'd like to believe it--but why no photos of the trove, no previously unpublished text?
posted by Scram at 9:58 PM on November 23, 2014


Yeah, it's kind of weird to have such an integral piece of American literature and then turn around and say "well, I hope the person I sell it to publishes it!" I get that it's probably worth more unpublished but it doesn't even sound like it's her property. By all accounts it belongs to the Kerouac estate.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:06 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


I would think there are still people alive who could verify its authenticity: Gary Snyder or Michael McClure perhaps.

I just watched "Magic Trip" hoping to get a better idea about who Neal was.

I thought the film was absolutely horrifying. Grown adults on acid acting like children. It kind of validates the worst stereotypes about the sixties. I guess you had to be there ... and on acid.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:27 PM on November 23, 2014




On the Road was presented to me as one of those books that the grown-ups said you must read. Perhaps that's what ruined it for me, it being a sort of assigned reading, still I fucking hated almost every indulgent page of that fucking book.

I love Truman Capote but I loved Truman Capote years before I knew of his rather terse criticism of Kerouac. Your favorite author sucks I suppose.

I will however brook no criticism of Mark Twain. He is surely a genius.
posted by vapidave at 12:23 AM on November 24, 2014 [9 favorites]


Grown adults on acid acting like children.

Yeah. That's a feature, not a bug.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 1:09 AM on November 24, 2014 [7 favorites]


>>I just watched "Magic Trip" hoping to get a better idea about who Neal was.

I thought the film was absolutely horrifying. Grown adults on acid acting like children. It kind of validates the worst stereotypes about the sixties. I guess you had to be there ... and on acid.


I found it really liberating to see that even Neal Cassady and the Merry Pranksters tried too hard sometimes.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:17 AM on November 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Reading On the Road when I was around 20 basically inspired me to chase after a bunch of party kids and waste ten years of my life doing drugs and dancing, so I'll always appreciate it for that, even if it wasn't a very good book.
posted by empath at 3:21 AM on November 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


I just had a long conversation with a former prof -- whose opinions I generally respect -- about the role of class in Kerouac's writing. When I tried to read On the Road as a twenty-year-old, I rammed up against the casual sexism and put the book down. Dr. G has convinced me to read this, but I know I'm going to be gritting my teeth throughout parts of it. :-/
posted by pxe2000 at 3:50 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Quantum Leap Season 3 Episode 9 'Rebel Without A Clue' has Jack Kerouac pop up as a character in the story, and the basic plotline is 'basing your life around Kerouac's writing might get you into trouble'. Fortunately during the episode Sam helps Kerouac to realise this and he is able to go and talk to one of his fans and retcon some of his famous lines so that they actually advocate settling down and chilling out a bit. The 90s, huh. sorry I've been working my way through a box set recently
posted by memebake at 4:13 AM on November 24, 2014 [10 favorites]


Ginsberg's Elegy for Neal Cassady remains one of the most raw and honest, tender and personal pieces of writing I have ever come across.

*Edit* that one was missing a page. Here's the full text, but missing the formatting.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:30 AM on November 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've clearly forgotten how to use the internets. Here's the good version.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:41 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Transcript of SNL's "Highway Patrol" with John Belushi as Jack Kerouac.
posted by valkane at 5:11 AM on November 24, 2014


"The letter is so good, and you see why these guys loved him," she says of Cassady's fellow Beats. "The writing, it just breathes off the page."
posted by newdaddy at 7:49 AM on November 24, 2014


I love reading descriptions of Neal Cassady, seeing how people try to describe this man who continually blew their minds, who could carry on four conversations simultaneously and weave in random words by flipping through the radio dial all while driving down a city street or highway faster than even a sober person had any right to.

John Perry Barlow took at shot in Cassidy's Tale (sic), reminiscing about Neal and describing the circumstances in which he wrote the lyrics to the song Cassidy.

Yeah, it's kind of weird to have such an integral piece of American literature and then turn around and say "well, I hope the person I sell it to publishes it!"

I was daydreaming yesterday about some of Neal's old friends --- Barlow, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh --- pooling their money to buy this thing and then sharing it with the world. It really should be out there.
posted by alms at 8:02 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


"...somewhere along the line, the pearl would be handed to me" - Kerouac

This letter is, by all accounts, that pearl. Neal Cassady influence can't be understated. The world've been a boring place without him, and you are square for thinking otherwise.
posted by Catblack at 11:47 AM on November 24, 2014


I rammed up against the casual sexism and put the book down.

Reading this post last night somehow lead me to finding some interviews with Carolyn Cassady, the prep-schooled, remarkably "straight" Bennington theater major (Camille in On the Road) who somehow ended up married to Neal (and raising his children) and intermittently a lover of Jack K. to boot. Her book Off the Road is going on my List - her interviews alone pretty thoroughly strip the romance off of those two while making it clear that she remained nonetheless as smitten with Neal as everybody was for the rest of her ninety years.
posted by atoxyl at 12:03 PM on November 24, 2014


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