Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Neal, we hardly knew ye....

Neal Cassady, member of the Beat Generation and Jack Kerouac muse, died this date in 1968, four days short of his 42nd birthday. Con man, driver extraordinaire, hyperkinetic, charmer, car thief, father, writer, Casanova, thinker, hustler, husband, railroad man -- whatever labels you may apply to him, Neal lived a lot in his time.

Yet, when it comes to people I've never met, I'm never sure if I really have an accurate sense of the person. Granted, between Kerouac's roman a clef fictional accounts, Neal's own letters (note the recent discovery of the missing Joan Anderson letter), biographies, etc., we can say we know a lot about the man. But who was he, really?

Just a Catholic boy on a search for God (as Kerouac described his On the Road character)?

In honor of the anniversary of Neal's too-young demise, your task is to read some Visions of Cody today (Neal is the title character, appearing as Cody Pomeray). Or, if you please, read some of Neal's autobiographical The First Third, or any of Kerouac's various novels where he appears (most famously as Dean Moriarty in On the Road).

Dion sang, "it seems the good they die young." So sometimes do the rascals, it would seem.

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