Luanne is "Mary Lou" to Jack Kerouac's "Sal Paradise" and Neal Cassady's immortal "Dean Moriarity", present for a great deal of the go, go, goings that make up most of On the Road, so isn't it just a TREASURE and a TREAT to listen to her recollections of those days for seven hours? I thought so. While nothing earth-shattering is revealed that I can remember, I just loved hearing more about what these icons of fifties' literature were like in actual, breathing, every day life. And how, even in 1978, a lot of mythology was already beginning to pop up around their life stories that may or may not line up with the reality.
Additionally, how ridiculously doll-like are these photos of Luanne and Neal? They're like movie stars:
One of the more appealing factors of One and Only is the Rashomon like perspective shift from what I've already read about two of the beat movements most famous members, Kerouac and Neal Cassady. Carolyn Cassady, ermine blonde second wife to Neal who also had a long-going affair with Jack, wrote a book about her life with both men called Heart Beat in 1976, which you'd better believe I gobbled up in the midst of my beat fervor back in the day. I think I must have read it five times in one summer, taking notes in a composition book about what other books and publications to cross reference later. If only I'd had this book then! In terms of comparison, One and Only is at a disadvantage, in that it is basically a (beautifully edited and annotated) transcript of several conversations Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia had with Luanne Henderson in 1978. However! Oh, to hear a romantic rival dismiss and re-contextualize some of the events from Carolyn Cassady's book, and affirm her own importance in the whole idea of the real life cast of On the Road. Luanne says more than twice that she feels she's been represented at best as a ditz and at worst as trailing after Neal Cassady long after he had lost interest in her, when that is, based on her own recollections and the facts of some of Cassady and Kerouac's movements, just not the case. I've got to read Heart Beat again, now, for the millionth time, to check back on some of the stuff in this book.
What I loved most about Luanne's book was just the going of it. From what I can remember, Carolyn's book had a lot about how she and Neal, and sometimes Kerouac, would set up housekeeping here, the men would all be drinking beer and smoking pot and hanging out and writing, and then Neal would do something nuts, like take all their savings, buy a new car, and headed West for a few weeks. Luanne would be one of the people he would pick up to take on these mad dash trips across America, so her perspective was actually from the passenger's seat of On the Road, rather than once they men had come home to roost. I love how she talks about the time period without that sense of importance or myth-making that lots of biographies and memoirs of beats and beat-hangers-on...they were just a bunch of crazy kids trying to have fun and live their lives. I think a lot of the feeling of being "on the road" is present in her book; while it seems to be happening elsewhere in other sources from the time. Does that make sense?
|The Signet cover of On the Road and one of Kerouac's early sketches, circa 1952, for what he wanted the cover to look like (source)|
Have you seen Jack Kerouac speak French before? You have now! French-Canadian, but still.
That's all for today! See you tomorrow.
- This 2012 interview with Carolyn Cassady, who is still alive and feeling cantankerous in England. There's a documentary done on her just recently, but it looks like the DVD's only available in PAL format :(
- I love this On the Road references cheat sheet from Wikipedia...doesn't it feel like a baseball program?