Puffing along a trail recounting leaving cold, miserable London en route to post-hurricane Florida with flashbacks to working in Rheinplatz grade fields, gathering chestnuts to sell for beer and bread money, strange encampments at Oktoberfest, and hitchhiking to Amsterdam with gaggle of pals. To London by ferry and rapid exit via cheap flight Florida, quickly interjecting in chaotic domestic situations, meals with surly Hare Krishnas, sleeping on unglamorous beaches, and avoiding looting commotion, while plotting forward momentum, which eventually came in form of a dubious drive-away car situation to Dallas… and beyond (in 1992).
Features music by: “Brave Captain” fIREHOSE (recorded live in Ancienne, Belgique, March 12, 1991 – via Archive.org), “Florida” by Blue Rodeo (recorded live in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), and “Crazy Fingers” by Grateful Dead (recorded live in Phoenix, AZ, 1993 – via archive.org).
Amidst a thunderstorm at 4AM in Chiang Mai, Dave discusses – with excessive frankness and emotion – various medical conundrums (Fibromyalgia and CFS-ME) and details the physical feelings of “crash mode” as well as the mental strain in dealing with self de-identification and inter-personal relationships, confusion in seeking help, and various alternative treatments. No sympathy or advice requested.
First reflecting on Funiculars, Dave then reads works by poet friends from far-flung points including: Sohaib Ahmed recounting escaped love and lights, Adam Burningham examining towns atop streams, Amber Case on a languid roadtrip, and Robert Scales appreciating a sunrise and oblivion – plus music by guitarist Matt Harding and a rainstorm, crickets and cicadas from a porch.
Considered ‘lost’ for 66 years, Neal Cassady’s visionary ‘Joan Anderson letter’ is a foundational document of the Beat era and the inspiration for Kerouac’s literary revolutions, beginning withOn the Road
Neal Cassady’s long-lost letter to Jack Kerouac, dated 17 December 1950, has permeated virtually every conversation about the Beat era. Referenced not only by Kerouac but by Allen Ginsberg, Laurence Ferlinghetti, Herbert Hunke, and a host of their contemporaries, Cassady’s fluid, incantatory, and deeply revealing prose influenced the entire generation of Beat writers.
The letter was written on a three-day Benzedrine high, Cassady later confessed. It contained, by Kerouac’s first calculation, at least 13,000 words and ran to 40 pages, offering a compelling, unaffected and discursive account of Cassady’s frenetic love life in 1946, particularly with Joan Anderson (whom he visited in a hospital after a failed suicide), and ‘Cherry Mary’, recounting an acrobatic escape through a bathroom window when they were surprised by Mary’s aunt. The uninhibited, non-literary narrative pointed the way to the free, truthful style to which Kerouac aspired.
Overwhelmed by what he read, Kerouac wrote ecstatically to Cassady on 27 December: ‘I thought it ranked among the best things ever written in America… it was almost as good as the unbelievably good ‘Notes from the Underground’ of Dostoevsky… You gather together all the best styles… of Joyce, Céline, Dosy… and utilize them in the muscular rush of your own narrative style & excitement. I say truly, no Dreiser, no Wolfe has come close to it; Melville was never truer.’
In an interview published in the Summer 1968 issue of The Paris Review, Kerouac famously hailed the letter’s impact: ‘I got the idea for the spontaneous style of On the Road from seeing how good old Neal Cassady wrote his letters to me, all first person, fast, mad, confessional, completely serious, all detailed, with real names in his case, however (being letters).’
Nearly everyone who knew Cassady was struck by his natural verbal virtuosity as a monologist. Kerouac’s first wife, Joan Haverty Kerouac, recounted his tales of ‘cares and escapades, jail memories and women and nights and blues’, though she was certain that no writing ‘could… capture the vitality and intensity of the voice I now heard, describing everything in such a way that lived it just by listening.’
Never read, or merely neglected, the letter remained untended until its discovery in 2012
As with many documents of the era, the ‘Joan Anderson’ letter travelled a complex path through many hands, and for the majority of the last 66 years was considered lost. After being entranced by it and responding, Kerouac gave the letter to Allen Ginsberg to read and offer to publishers.
Ginsberg then took the letter to his friend Gerd Stern, who was living in Sausalito in California on a houseboat and working as a West Coast rep for Ace Books. Within the tight Beat nexus, Ginsberg and Stern formed a bond after meeting at the mental facility where they were both introduced to (Howl-dedicatee) Carl Solomon. Solomon’s uncle owned Ace Books, and it was Ace that had published William S. Burroughs’ Junkie in 1953.
Despite their enthusiasm, Ace rejected publication of Cassady’s typescript and it was returned by Stern to Ginsberg. The letter then went missing and the story was born — perpetuated most emphatically by Kerouac — that it had been lost over the side of Stern’s boat.
In fact, Cassady’s letter had been preserved in the files of the Golden Goose Press. Owned by Ginsberg and Stern’s friend R.W. ‘Dick’ Emerson, the Golden Goose Press was known for publishing some of the finest poets of the period, and for making audio recordings of their readings. Emerson placed the envelope containing the letter on his ‘to read’ pile. Never read, or merely neglected, it remained untended until its discovery in 2012 by Jean Spinosa.
No records of any sales are recorded in the online databases for any Cassady material, let alone for material of this literary consequence
Ginsberg later had no memory of giving the Joan Anderson Letter to Stern, and when Emerson closed the Golden Goose Press the letter was packed further into obscurity. It may have been lost for ever had not John ‘Jack’ Spinosa, Emerson’s officemate at 40 Gold Street in San Francisco, insisted on preserving the press’s archives when they were forced to vacate their rental space.
Spinosa recognized that literary history was preserved in those files, and saved them from being thrown away as Emerson cleared the office. The boxes remained with Spinosa and his wife Kathleen Cohan until after his death on 29 November 2011. On the following 15 May, Jack’s daughter Jean discovered this long-lost treasure of post-war American literature, buried among the files of the Golden Goose Press.
Only a fragment of the letter has ever been published — 14 years after it was written, and after the great works it influenced had come out. A portion of the letter, apparently copied by Kerouac before he passed it on to Ginsberg, was published in 1964 by John Bryan in his Notes from Underground #1, where it was called ‘The First Third’. Bryan claimed that Cassady himself came to help print it, while the title suggests that Cassady was by this time considering it as the first portion of his ongoing autobiography.
The same extract was published by City Lights in 1971 as an addendum to Cassady’s book The First Third, and later formed the basis of the 1997 film The Last Time I Committed Suicide, directed by Stephen T. Kay, and starring Thomas Jane and Keanu Reeves.
It is an understatement to remark that Neal Cassady material is scarce at auction: it is unprecedented. No records of any sales are recorded in the online databases for any Cassady material, let alone for material of this literary significance. The circumstances of its preservation and appearance at auction constitute a unique opportunity to acquire a foundational post-war literary manuscript that transcends its humble origins as a ‘letter’.
While in a cabin in Jamaica, i recorded a sort of spoken word song made from loops, samples and layered tracks of sorta-singing and spieling about the changes in my city and the importance and interestingness of observation. Available in poetry only version as well.
From a cabin in Jamaica comes a spoken word song made from loops, samples and layers of spoken and sorta-sung vocals inventing stories about a workers’ boarding hall which burned down years back and the foundations sits, still.
The Jack Kerouac Writer in Residence Project of Orlando offers free room and board to writers
Jack Kerouac lived in this home at the time On the Road made him a national sensation. And it was in this home that Kerouac wrote his follow-up, The Dharma Bums, during eleven frenetic days and nights. The Kerouac House, as it has come to be known, is now a living, literary tribute to one of the great American writers of the twentieth century. Like all the other places in Kerouac’s nomadic journey, he didn’t live here long. But the home represents a critical juncture in Kerouac’s life, when he made the transition from a 35-year-old nobody writer, to the bard of the Beat Generation.
An interactive Google map of Sal Paradise’s first trip in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The map connects with the Littourati blog. Traces the journey of the author with accompanying reflections and essays. Also links with information on each place the author visited or mentioned. Concept and design by Michael L. Hess.
The little brick house at 5169 10th Ave. N isn’t much to look at. But in 1969, a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times walked past the palms and knocked on the door and found the grizzled jowls and red-rimmed eyes of the 46-year-old king of the Beats.
Jack Kerouac, author, artist, cult hero, was watching Walter Cronkite on the evening news, volume turned silent, while Handel’s Messiah blared from the record player. He was smoking Camels, drinking whiskey from a medicine vial and chasing it with Falstaff beer in a half-quart can.
“You better not try to take my photo, or I’ll kick your a—,” Kerouac said.
He’d been living in obscurity in St. Petersburg for several years with his third wife, Stella, and his mother, who was paralyzed. The man who had written 17 books, including On the Road and The Dharma Bums, was clearly fading.
He complained of making just $1,770 the first six months of the year. He complained that he was lonely and didn’t get out much. He complained that he was ill.
“I got a g—d—- hernia, you know that? My g—d—- belly-button is popping out. That’s why I’m dressed like this,” he said. “I got no place to go, anyway.”
He was dead from gastric hemorrhaging a few weeks later, at St. Anthony’s Hospital, where they tried to save him with 30 units of Type A Positive.
There’s not much left of Kerouac here, save some stories and old acquaintances and a favorite bar stool or two. And this house.
His mother died not long after Jack, and Stella passed in 1990, but the house has been mostly empty of humans since the ’70s. To walk inside is to be transported back 40 years. Tchotchkes from the era line the shelves. A ‘72 Chevy Caprice sits on flats in the two-car garage. A Reader’s Digest from September 1967 sits on the record cabinet. A 1969 telephone directory for Lowell, Mass., is shelved on Kerouac’s desk in the bedroom. A Boone’s Farm box is in a closet. An official mayoral proclamation for “Jack Kerouac Day” in Lowell, Mass., hangs on one wall, near a Buddha statue and a crucifix.
“This was Jack’s chair,” said Pat Barmore, a Kerouac fan who gave an impromptu tour Friday. Barmore graduated from Largo High School in 1969 and set off on a two-month road trip, thinking he would look up Kerouac when he got back. But Kerouac was dead by the time he returned.
Barmore is working with a few others to start a nonprofit called Friends of Jack Kerouac to raise money for repairs on the house. He first spoke to the home’s current owner, Kerouac’s brother-in-law John Sampas, to ask for permission to use Kerouac’s likeness on a poster and T-shirts for the Flamingo, on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N, where Kerouac liked to drink and play pool.
A month ago, Barmore said, Sampas called him to report that someone had broken out a window. Sampas, who lives in Massachusetts, asked Barmore if he’d take care of the property.
Kerouac’s following, he said, is strong enough to fund the upkeep on the man’s last abode. The mailbox gives a hint that he might be right — it’s full of notes from fans.
“Dearest Jack,” reads one. “Thank you for everything. Your work is why I write, and write to live.”
“Hey Jack, We came by to say hello,” says another. “Sorry we missed you.”
Barmore and Pete Gallagher have been hosting Kerouac-themed concerts at the Flamingo to raise money. They’re throwing one tonight with a lineup of bands and some beat poetry.
They’ve bleached the toilets at the house and are trying to get rid of the rats. They need to replace a window and repair some furniture. They envision cleaning the place up, making it look like it did when Kerouac slept here. Then, who knows? Maybe it could be a writer’s residence. Maybe they could open it to the public a little bit, invite people in.
“I’m glad to see you,” Kerouac told the Times reporter in ‘69, “because I’m very lonesome here.”
It’s too late to give him company, but maybe it’s not too late for his place.