OFF THE ROAD: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg by Carolyn Cassady

OFF THE ROAD: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg

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Neal Cassady, immortalized as a kind of amphetamine cowboy archetype in Jack Kerouac's On the Road, was, not surprisingly, a terror around his suburban ranch house. Here, first-time author Carolyn Cassady offers a sincere if stilted record of her 20-year love affair/marriage with that wild American original. Bennington-educated Carolyn met Neal in Denver just after WW II. She was a grad student at the Univ. of Denver; he was a big blond kid from a broken Denver family who, at 20, was passing himself off as a budding writer and Columbia Univ. student. He walked into Carolyn's life with a child bride on his arm, but despite Carolyn's upper-middle-class reserve he managed to win her heart and a place in her bed. Things got trickier when young Allen Ginsberg appeared on the scene and Carolyn found the young poet, Neal, and his soon-to-be-ex-bride in bed together. Pregnant and in love, Carolyn learned to drop her 50's moral standards and started a life with Neal in California. There, Neal thrived as he got a job with the Southern Pacific railroad and spent his spare time with his kids (two girls and a boy). Neal and Carolyn bought a ranch house in Los Gatos, creating for house-guests Kerouac and Ginsberg a feeling of home and security--never mind that Neal, in order to cover for his own affairs, encouraged his wife to start one with sweet, alcoholic Kerouac. By the mid-60's, it became clear that Neal couldn't adhere to a bourgeois life: ""Neal's resolve to stay away from his former acquaintances was short-lived."" Despite psychotherapy (Neal was pronounced sociopathic) and a devotion to Edgar Cayce, the star-crossed (and pot- and acid- and methedrine-crossed) pair parted for good. Just as Carolyn found middle-aged acceptance of her drug-gobbling ex-husband, Neal died his famous death by the railroad tracks in Mexico. An earnest but stolid account, likely to reinforce the common image of Beat wives and lovers as merely minor characters in a celebrated literary melodrama.

Pub Date: July 24th, 1990
Publisher: Morrow