THE HOLY GOOF: A Biography of Neal Cassady by William Plummet

THE HOLY GOOF: A Biography of Neal Cassady

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Plummer, behind a glare of high-gloss journalism-ese, seems as much to throw away the life of his subject here as he does to nail it down. Cassady--Beat-saint, Kerouac's Dean Moriarity of On The Road (""Troubles, you see, is the generalization word for what God exists in. The thing is not to get hung-up. . . . God exists without qualms. As we roll this way I am positive beyond doubt that everything will be taken care of for us . . .""), and latter-day Merry Prankster in the Sixties--is not an easy subject for a biography: no cultural pivot--who is not at the same time a creator--ever is. But Plummer, when he downshifts, sets out the facts of Cassady's life cogently enough: son of an unsuccessful, semi-bum barber father, bullied as a boy by brothers, exposed to the lowest skids of Los Angeles while still in school, an early criminal career--and then apotheosis at the hands of visionaries: first Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs, then Kesey and the Pranksters. He demonstrates how frail Cassady was as against others' avidity for him: Kerouac was finding Nirvana in Neal, but Neal was finding things safe inside the tennis shoes of someone like Edgar Cayce. But what constantly obscures the difficult tracing of the Cassady persona/personality--the very unstable element that he was--is Plummer's relentless cleverness: ""Kesey lived in a neonized log house in LaHonda, was Chief to a bunch of paisleyed nut cases, and worked at creating electric, soul-boggling events in the interest of standing naked at the cosmic synapse."" This bowl of Rice-Krispies masquerading as a prose style adds little except another burden to what is already an epiphenomenal enterprise; and readers who want the story in its greater, wider, no less heartfelt dimensions should be looking back at Dennis McNally's Desolate Angel.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1981
Publisher: Prentice-Hall