Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Holy Grail Of The Beat Generation Has Been Found!


For decades it has been assumed that the infamous 'Joan Anderson Letter' drowned when it was thrown over the side of a houseboat parked off Sausalito.

But it turns out it was hiding out in a cardboard box amongst the floatsam and jetsam of a long defunct publisher that hardly anybody remembers (i.e. not the one that Ferlinghetti started).

What the heckfire am I babbling on about this time?



...Neal Cassady’s 1950 letter to Jack Kerouac, which changed the fate of On the Roadand held the origin of the Beat narrative, was recently unearthed and is set to go up for auction. Kerouac was so taken by the 18-page letter’s free-for-all narration that he scrapped his draft of On the Road and started anew. He called the letter “the greatest piece of writing I ever saw, better’n anybody in America, or at least enough to make Melville, Twain, Dreiser, Wolfe, I dunno who, spin in their graves.”...

How important, really, was this letter to Kerouac's chucking of his earlier, much more conventional 'Town and the City' -like versions of 'On The Road' so that he could go full typewriter roll?

Jerry Cimino, the Beat Museum guy, explains.

...The initial idea for Jack’s decision to write in a confessional style may have come from Goethe or Dostoyevsky, but the true inspiration for Jack’s new spontaneous style of confessional writing came from none other than his good buddy Neal Cassady.

See, Neal and Jack & Allen were constantly writing letters to each other (and many others) in the 1940s and 1950s, but there is one particular letter Neal wrote Jack on December 17, 1950 that finally caused everything to gel in Jack’s mind. Jack & Neal & Allen called it “The Joan Anderson Letter” for short and they would often refer to it in subsequent letters and in conversation. Jack would gush over it and Neal would say, “aw, shucks” and it also influenced Ginsberg in a big way, so much so that Allen tried to get it published a few years later.

And this is where all the Myth and Legend and Lore comes in, but there is truth in mythmaking and the legend and the lore expand the story to Greek Tragi-Comedy proportions. In an attempt to have the letter published, Allen Ginsberg related how he had given the letter to a publishing agent by the name of Gerd Stern and that Gerd lost the letter on his houseboat in Sausalito (on the other side of The Golden Gate Bridge north of San Francisco). Fortunately someone had retyped a portion of this letter and that excerpt can be found in The First Third where it starts, “To have seen a specter isn’t everything…” The person who retyped that portion of the letter was most likely Kerouac himself according to Beat scholar & author Dave Moore, editor of Neal Cassady: Collected Letters and by whom most of this information has been gathered...


Where the heck is my copy of the 'First Third' anyway?

Now more than ever, I, for one, sure am glad that Kerouac never became a sportswriter.
And, ya, I have dragged my family through both that other guy's bookstore and Jerry's place around the corner on gentrifying Broadway in North Beach more than once...And perhaps even more obsessively, whenever we go to the Baghdad by the Bay for science geek stuff I pretty much always force my guys to spend at least one night at Vesuvio...They usually stop complaining when I tell them I'm buying. 


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At least now we know where Harper and the Right Wingnut CPC are getting their money from...

In December Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front party, revealed that her party had received a €9m loan from Russian-owned First Czech-Russian Bank, leading to reports that Putin was purposefully bankrolling radical European parties in order to destabilise Europe.

Putin is known to be a bit of an ambitious bloke - why would he stop at destabilizing Europe?

Time for the Fraser Institute and other CPC proxies to come clean about their CCCP ties.