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Off the Road tells the intimate story of two of the most famous, and yet enigmatic, figures in modern literature – Jack Kerouac and his friend, travelling companion and hero, Neal Cassady. Written by the woman who loved them both – as wife of Cassady, lover of Kerouac – it is the remarkable record of marriage to the man whose exploits, as Dean Moriarty in On the Road, caught the imagination of a generation and fired the Beat movement.
Carolyn Cassady's book spans one of the most vital areas in twentieth-century literature and culture. It begins in the early days of Kerouac and Cassady’s friendship, when the former was a struggling author trying to make his way with his first novel, and goes on to the explosive success of On the Road and Ginsberg’s Howl, the flowering of the ‘Beat generation’, and the social revolution of the 1960s which saw Kerouac and Cassady – by then famed as driver of Ken Kesey’s legendary Merry Pranksters’ bus – taken up as founding fathers of the emerging worldwide hippy movement.
Carolyn Cassady was born in Michigan in 1923, and eight years later moved to Nashville, Tennessee. She graduated from Bennington College, Vermont, and later became increasingly involved in set and costume design, graduating MA in Fine Arts and Theater Arts from the University of Denver. While at Denver, she met Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and in 1948 she and Cassady married in San Francisco. They had three children. Falling in love with Neal plunged Carolyn into a strange and unknown world, far from her conventional middle-class upbringing. Almost every value and social convention she had been brought up to respect was to be irrevocably and painfully challenged, yet she was unable to run away. Compelled to stay with an incompatible partner she still loved, Carolyn’s attempts to adjust to new ways of living and to form new attitudes to her life are the basis of her deeply moving story.
‘Carolyn Cassady’s book is the one that I have been waiting to read for the past forty years, the one that sets the record straight one hell of a story’
JAY LANDESMAN, SUNDAY TIMES
‘This is the book to be read in tandem with Kerouac’s On the Road, Ginsberg’s Howl and Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. It fits like the lost half of a broken plate’
‘This just might turn out to be the Beat memoir’
Paperback 448pp, ISBN 978 0 948238 37 6; £9.95