Neal Cassady: The Fast Life of a Beat Hero

Neal Cassady: The Fast Life of a Beat Hero

Neal Cassady: The Fast Life of a Beat Hero

Neal Cassady: The Fast Life of a Beat Hero

Excerpt

This biography of Neal Cassady was David Sandison's idea. David had long been intrigued by Cassady, a man who had tried to reconcile a life of spectacular hedonism with the role of father, husband, and breadwinner … an obscure westerner who could turn manual labor into a minor art form but whose fate was inextricably caught up in the world of a handful of East Coast intellectuals led by Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.

David was fascinated not only by the wild patterns of Cassady's life but also by the strange paradox of a uniquely creative mind that somehow managed to change the course of American literature by proxy and also influence both the beats and the hippies.

So he embarked upon his Cassady book, conducting numerous interviews across the United States, pulling together a wealth of rare or previously unknown material about his subject, and eventually writing what has become more or less the first half of the present volume. David's health began to decline, however, during the course of the project and, as deadlines unavoidably drifted by, the Sisyphean task of documenting Cassady's dizzyingly complex and paradoxical life became ever more daunting, and the book's completion kept receding into the future. This was a sad irony as from the start it had been primarily a labor of love that had genuinely absorbed and fascinated him. Then, in 2004, David died unexpectedly following surgery. He left behind not only a grieving family and friends but also, on the fringes of personal tragedy, a suddenly orphaned book.

I was one of those friends. David had occasionally chatted casually to me about the project that was consuming so much of his time. (Later I was to wish that I had paid closer attention to some of those informal confidences.) After his death it became clear that his half-completed . . .

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