Cassady, Carolyn

(1923– )
   Married to the whirlwind, larger-than-life Beat muse neal cassady, Carolyn Cassady became a central figure in the lives of Cassady, jack kerouac, and allen ginsberg, as well as an important Beat memoirist with the publication of her own work. An early version of her memoirs, Heart Beat: My Life With Jack & Neal, was published in 1976; Carolyn served as consultant on the weak film version, Heart Beat, with Sissy Spacek as Carolyn and Nick Nolte as Neal. A much fuller account appeared as off tHe road: my years witH cassady, kerouac, and GinsBerG (1990) and deals with her reminiscences of her trio of conflicting identities. She was foremost the loyal wife of the peripatetic Cassady and mother to their three towheaded children. But she was also the lover and confidante of Kerouac, sometimes up all night participating in the marijuana-and-wine-fueled Beat talking and music sessions that the wildman Cassady encouraged at their home. Throughout her turbulent courtship, marriage, and postdivorce life with the erratic Cassady, Carolyn supported herself and her family through her impressive, awardwinning skills as an artist, illustrator, and theatrical and costume designer.
   Carolyn Robinson was born in 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee, to university faculty parents who encouraged her education and talents. She won a scholarship to Bennington College, in Vermont, where she received a degree in drama and also studied painting, sculpture, and dance. She next pursued a masters degree in theatre and fine arts at the University of Denver. Arriving in Denver in 1947, she was introduced by a would-be suitor to his dynamic friend, Neal Cassady. Despite the fact that Cassady was broke, sketchily employed, and already married to 16-year-old LuAnne Henderson, Carolyn found him electrifying and records in her memoir a growing sense of attraction that seemed fated. A little over a year after first meeting him, Carolyn and Neal married in a San Francisco civil service, with Carolyn already pregnant with their first child, Cathy.
   Neal, attentive and even courtly at times in his affection for Carolyn, was not always forthcoming to her about his complicated relationships with the individuals whom he had met on his lengthy New York honeymoon with LuAnne; these individuals were to become the central coterie of the Beat Generation. Some details Neal shared, but others were not revealed to her until the publication of various Beat novels a decade or more after they met. Neal continued to see LuAnne despite the annulment he had obtained to marry Carolyn; his road-trip exploits with his teenage ex-wife appear in Kerouac’s on tHe road. Neal explored a sexual relationship with an infatuated Ginsberg during his courtship of Carolyn and traveled with Ginsberg to assist William S. Burroughs to harvest a marijuana crop on the ranch that Burroughs was sharing with his common-law wife Joan and herbert huncke in Waverly, Texas. Carolyn overcame her initial trepidation toward drugs to join the persuasive Neal in experimenting mildly with Benzedrine and marijuana. Yet, Neal sometimes obscured his own degree of dependence on drugs, the addictions of some of his Beat friends, and the wildness of his own exploits in pursuit of “kicks.” The strongest contrast throughout Carolyn’s candid memoir is between her “straight,” traditional, duty-bound persona and Neal’s freewheeling ways with money, lovers, drugs, and factual truths. Neal could perform the role of attentive husband and father, and for periods in the late 1940s and 1950s he worked as a railway brakeman and regularly returned home from rail stints with a paycheck. But his bouts of restless energy continued to whirl him off on sprees and affairs, and Carolyn coped with fatigue and poverty when cast back into the struggles of single parenting. When Carolyn gave birth to their second child, daughter Jami, in 1950, Neal had already proposed to Diana Hansen, a New York model with whom he was living and who was pregnant with his child. Caroline agreed to a divorce, and Neal married Hansen when the divorce was granted but before it was final. For a while Neal shunted between his two legal wives, one on each coast, before reconciling with Carolyn and moving back in with her and their daughters. Their son, John Allen, named after Kerouac and Ginsberg, was born in September 1951. The Cassadys enjoyed a period of domestic peace together, welcoming Kerouac into their home while he worked on On the Road, and Neal got him a temporary railroad job. Carolyn and Kerouac had shared a mutual attraction since Neal first introduced them; now they began an affair, under the oddly encouraging eye of Neal who seemed to view their ménage à trois arrangement as just reparation for his own frequent transgressions. Eventually, tensions arose between Kerouac and Neal, and Kerouac, bitter over his second failed marriage and financial straits, decided to depart for Mexico to preserve both his mental state and his valued friendship with Cassady.
   The Cassadys moved to San Jose and later to Los Gatos. A work-injury settlement in 1954 brought Neal $16,000 and helped pay for their new home. The couple also began to study the teachings of Edgar Cayce, a mixture of self-help advice and the occult. They eventually attended lectures given by Cayce’s son, Hugh Lynn, and associate, Elsie Sechrist, and tried meditation and analysis together. Sechrist remained Carolyn’s counselor throughout the rest of her difficult marriage to Neal, who continued to take lovers, including Ginsberg; Carolyn’s memoir includes a scene where she describes her shock on walking in on the two during one of Ginsberg’s visits to their home. Eventually, Neal’s gambling cost them their savings, and in 1958 Neal was sentenced to a two-year jail term for possession of marijuana. The prison time allowed Carolyn to disengage her affections finally and to bolster her independence. Until his death in 1968 in Mexico, Neal was in and out of her life, feted as a counterculture hero by ken kesey and his Merry Pranksters. Carolyn knew of Neal’s increasing drug use and mental instability but did her best to supervise his visits and excursions with their children and to manage a tolerant attitude toward his erratic episodes. After Neal’s death, Carolyn continued to support herself and her children through her portraiture and her theatrical design work. In 1984 she moved to England where scholars of the Beat Generation continue to seek her out for interviews and queries. She has appeared as a speaker at numerous Beat conferences and events, sometimes with her son, and has consulted on both feature films and documentaries about the Beat Generation.
■ Cassady, Carolyn. Heart Beat: My Life With Jack & Neal. Berkeley, Calif.: Creative Arts Book Co., 1976.
■ ———. Off The Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1990.
   Amy L. Friedman

Encyclopedia of Beat Literature. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Carolyn Cassady — Carolyn Elizabeth Robinson Cassady (born April 28, 1923) is an American writer associated with the Beat Generation through her marriage to Neal Cassady and her friendships with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and other prominent Beat figures. She… …   Wikipedia

  • Carolyn Robinson Cassady — Carolyn Cassady (* 28. April 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee als Carolyn Robinson) war eine US amerikanische Schriftstellerin, Malerin und Muse der Beat Generation. In ihrer Ehe mit Neal Cassady kam es zu einer Dreiecksbeziehung mit Jack Kerouac,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Cassady, Neal — (1926–1968)    One might be tempted to say that if Neal Cassady had not existed, jack kerouac would have had to invent him. But for many students of the Beat Generation, Kerouac did invent Cassady. It is the rare Beat aficionado who knows much… …   Encyclopedia of Beat Literature

  • Carolyn Cassady — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Cassady. Carolyn Cassady, née Carolyn Robinson le 28 avril 1923 à Lansing, est une écrivain américaine. Femme de Neal Cassady, elle est notamment l auteur de deux ouvrages sur sa vie et celle des autres …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Carolyn Cassady — (* 28. April 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee als Carolyn Robinson) ist eine US amerikanische Schriftstellerin, Malerin und Muse der Beat Generation. In ihrer Ehe mit Neal Cassady kam es zu einer Dreiecksbeziehung mit Jack Kerouac, die 1980 unter dem …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Carolyn Garcia — Carolyn Elizabeth Garcia Born May 6, 1946 (1946 05 06) (age 65) Poughkeepsie, New York, U.S.A Other names Mountain Girl, Carolyn Adams Occupation Merry Pranksters icon Carolyn Eli …   Wikipedia

  • Carolyn Garcia — (* 6. Mai 1946 in Poughkeepsie, New York als Carolyn Elizabeth Adams), wurde in den 1960ern bekannt als Mountain Girl sowie Carolyn Adams, gehörte zu den führenden Persönlichkeiten der Merry Pranksters, ist Schriftstellerin, Vorstandsmitglied der …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Cassady — ist der Name folgender Personen: Carolyn Cassady (* 1923), Schriftstellerin, Malerin und Muse der Beat Generation Neal Cassady (1926–1968), gehörte mit zu der Gruppe der Beats Siehe auch: Casady …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Carolyn Adams — Infobox Person name = Carolyn Adams image size = caption = birth date = May 6, 1946 (age 62) birth place = Poughkeepsie, New York, U.S.A death date = death place = occupation = Merry Pranksters icon other names = Mountain Girl, Carolyn… …   Wikipedia

  • Cassady —  Cette page d’homonymie répertorie des personnes (réelles ou fictives) partageant un même patronyme. Neal Cassady, une personnalité américaine (1926 1968). Carolyn Cassady, un écrivain américain (1923). Catégorie : Homonymie de patronyme …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.