Neal Cassady, Collected Letters, 1944-1967
Readers of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road will remember Cassady as Dean Moriarty, a charming young con artist, car thief, pothead, seducer and holy fool. Readers of Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test will remember Cassady as the driver of Kesey’s bus, a guy who could steer a crowded bus down a steep mountain road with one hand while stoned out of his mind on acid. Readers of his letters will, perhaps, remember him as a near-sociopathic victimizer of especially women, but also the writers who wanted to romanticize his freedom from convention. Most illuminating are the letters to Cassady from his assorted wives, girlfriends and baby-mommas, most of whom continue to proclaim their undying love for him, even while he’s short-changing them on child support, flaunting his selfishness and generally denying all emotional access except that which will evoke sympathy and charity. A real charmer and a true genius at manipulating those who cared about him. And, no doubt, a great guy to party with.