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The Holy Goof: A Biography of Neal Cassady

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Criminal ... Saint ... Lunatic ... Genius ... Muse .... Once described by Jack Kerouac as "more like Dostoevsky than anyone I know," Neal Cassady lived what others could only write about. Serving as the model for Kerouac's frenetic hero, the hip, Noble Savage Dean Moriarty in On the Road, and "N.C., the secret hero" of Allen Ginsberg's provocative poem "Howl," Cassady was Criminal ... Saint ... Lunatic ... Genius ... Muse .... Once described by Jack Kerouac as "more like Dostoevsky than anyone I know," Neal Cassady lived what others could only write about. Serving as the model for Kerouac's frenetic hero, the hip, Noble Savage Dean Moriarty in On the Road, and "N.C., the secret hero" of Allen Ginsberg's provocative poem "Howl," Cassady was a genius of life lived on the edge of the abyss. Now, William Plummer strips away the mystery surrounding this enigmatic figure. Plummer brings Cassady to life: his coming of age in a Denver flophouse, his hustling across America, the car thefts that landed him in jail, his meeting with Kerouac and their mad-cap cross-country adventures, his experiments with sex and drugs, his second marriage to Carolyn Cassady, his teaming with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters on an epochal acid trip, and finally his bizarre death. Black-and-white photographs add to this engrossing biography of an outrageous but fascinating life.


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Criminal ... Saint ... Lunatic ... Genius ... Muse .... Once described by Jack Kerouac as "more like Dostoevsky than anyone I know," Neal Cassady lived what others could only write about. Serving as the model for Kerouac's frenetic hero, the hip, Noble Savage Dean Moriarty in On the Road, and "N.C., the secret hero" of Allen Ginsberg's provocative poem "Howl," Cassady was Criminal ... Saint ... Lunatic ... Genius ... Muse .... Once described by Jack Kerouac as "more like Dostoevsky than anyone I know," Neal Cassady lived what others could only write about. Serving as the model for Kerouac's frenetic hero, the hip, Noble Savage Dean Moriarty in On the Road, and "N.C., the secret hero" of Allen Ginsberg's provocative poem "Howl," Cassady was a genius of life lived on the edge of the abyss. Now, William Plummer strips away the mystery surrounding this enigmatic figure. Plummer brings Cassady to life: his coming of age in a Denver flophouse, his hustling across America, the car thefts that landed him in jail, his meeting with Kerouac and their mad-cap cross-country adventures, his experiments with sex and drugs, his second marriage to Carolyn Cassady, his teaming with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters on an epochal acid trip, and finally his bizarre death. Black-and-white photographs add to this engrossing biography of an outrageous but fascinating life.

30 review for The Holy Goof: A Biography of Neal Cassady

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mat

    Hmmmmm. Not a bad biography of Cassady but it pales next to the far superior The Fast Life of a Beat Hero by David Sandison which surpasses Plummer's book in terms of both scholarship/details and in my opinion stylistically as well. Not to say that Plummer's biography is bad. There are some very good moments and the main 'highlights' of Cassady's career are covered here so if you are a fan of the beats like myself, this is definitely still worth checking out. However, if I were a woman this book w Hmmmmm. Not a bad biography of Cassady but it pales next to the far superior The Fast Life of a Beat Hero by David Sandison which surpasses Plummer's book in terms of both scholarship/details and in my opinion stylistically as well. Not to say that Plummer's biography is bad. There are some very good moments and the main 'highlights' of Cassady's career are covered here so if you are a fan of the beats like myself, this is definitely still worth checking out. However, if I were a woman this book would have infuriated me. It is so male chauvinist and sexist in parts that it just makes you cringe. Cassady may have laughed or smiled though, being the 20th Century's version of Casanova par excellence. I mean really, really, why does Plummer have to hide behind facts that Cassady raped women by using expressions like she was "unwillingly violated". And he talks about the first tryst with Carolyn who grew to hate the male member apparently but ended up "surrendering her citadel" because she could not resist the awesome macho-ness of Neal. I mean.....ergh, give me a break. Pass me the bucket. Also, in one point he talks about how Cassady only wrote rubbish before he met Carolyn. Um, I disagree Mr. Plummer but I am glad that he half corrects himself later on when he talks about the big effect that his Joan Anderson letter had on Kerouac and his style of writing FROM THEN ON, pretty much. However and fortunately enough, the biography does get much better. The second half of the biography in particular focuses more on the events and facts and there are a few things I learned from Plummer's book which I did not get from Sandison's book. Plummer especially treats the last year or two of Cassady's life really well, when Cassady's synapses are worn out, refusing to fire up and he himself could probably see the end coming. What a crazy but eventful life Cassady managed to pack in to his 40 something years of life on this earth. Finally, I also learned a lot more about the beliefs of Edgar Cayce from this book. I did not know that it had Christian roots. Verdict - good bio but read Sandison's first. It is much better.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Josh Woods

    A very good bio of Neal Cassady. At times it digresses, especially when comes up the subjects of Kerouac and Kesey. The writing is interesting enough to hold your attention and the information is good without being overwhelming or overindulgent. I would recommend it to any beat, prankster, hippie, etc. fanatics.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    nice book about neal.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David Ward

    The Holy Goof: A Biography of Neal Cassady by William Plummer (Prentice-Hall Inc. 1981) (Biography). There were lots of legendary characters in the 1950's and 1960's from the time of the “Beat Generation” of the beatniks from the Fifties through “The Age of Aquarius” and the heyday of the hippies in the Sixties. Neal Cassady is one of those characters who transcended both eras. He was involved up to his eyeballs with the groups who led society kicking and screaming into new eras of thought, valu The Holy Goof: A Biography of Neal Cassady by William Plummer (Prentice-Hall Inc. 1981) (Biography). There were lots of legendary characters in the 1950's and 1960's from the time of the “Beat Generation” of the beatniks from the Fifties through “The Age of Aquarius” and the heyday of the hippies in the Sixties. Neal Cassady is one of those characters who transcended both eras. He was involved up to his eyeballs with the groups who led society kicking and screaming into new eras of thought, values, and behaviors. Though never well-known or widely remembered, Cassady was a central character on the cutting edge of both decades. Students of the 1950's agree that there were two seminal events which occurred in the counterculture of the 1950's that propelled society into the Age of Aquarius: (1) the publication of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and (2) the introduction and first performance of Allen Ginsberg's poem “Howl.” Not only did these two events radicalize young people of the era, Neal Cassady played central roles in the creation of both works. Neal Cassady was close pals with both Kerouac and Ginsberg; Cassady was the model for Kerouac's On the Road character Dean Moriarity (!) as well as the individual to whom Allen Ginsberg dedicated the poem “Howl!” What's more, Cassady then fell in in the early 1960's with a group from Palo Alto, California which coalesced around author Ken Kesey, who had just written the perennially popular novel One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest. Kesey's group, which became famous as “The Merry Pranksters,” is remembered for creating free-form 1960's vintage California raves which became known as “The Acid Tests.” These were publicly-held LSD parties in the days before LSD was illegal. Moreover, a new San Francisco-based blues band known as The Grateful Dead was invited to be the house band for the Acid Tests. The Merry Pranksters most famous prank / stunt of all time involved a cross-country road trip from San Francisco to New York in a hallucinogenically painted school bus named “Further.” Who should appear as the driver of the cross country school bus? None other than Neal Cassady. Cassady was apparently one of a kind. He was a ladies' man par excellence, he could see around corners when driving, and he is credited with a preternatural talent for carrying on numerous conversations or tasks at the same time. By the time he died in 1968 of esposure while hiking along a Mexican traintrack, Cassady had been an IV amphetamine abuser for some time and had burned many of his bridges. Author William Plummer's volume fills in many of the missing biographical details about a man who was on hand for many of the epochal events of a critical time in American history. Remember in the book and movie “Forrest Gump” how the various vignettes seemed to show that Forrest had been on hand to witness many of the seminal events of the Sixties? In reality, Neal Cassady was the same way, but he actually was there. In this case, truth may actually be stranger than fiction. My rating: 7/10, finished 3/14/19.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pat Murphy

    In fulfilling my desire to learn about Kerouac and his buddy Cassady I also read this one. I idolized the two as a young boy and man. The infatuation hung on and I read this and enjoyed it as well. Cassady had ability which your average person did not. Yet he was an underachiever shall I say. Still, I found his story remarkable as well as his experiences. One of my life's big disappointments was learning how young Cassady and Kerouac were when they died. It took that super image I had of them an In fulfilling my desire to learn about Kerouac and his buddy Cassady I also read this one. I idolized the two as a young boy and man. The infatuation hung on and I read this and enjoyed it as well. Cassady had ability which your average person did not. Yet he was an underachiever shall I say. Still, I found his story remarkable as well as his experiences. One of my life's big disappointments was learning how young Cassady and Kerouac were when they died. It took that super image I had of them and dusted it up.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    What a fascinating man!!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    7.5/10

  8. 5 out of 5

    Zack

    http://www.examiner.com/review/the-ho... http://www.examiner.com/review/the-ho...

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    An interesting look into the Beat Generation, which I knew nothing about.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Curtis

    Not a bad beat primer... but that's about it. Not a bad beat primer... but that's about it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    The author tried a little too hard to pepper the book with beat-ese which I guess is appropriate, but I can't stand the beat style. Also although he was hugely influential to an important part of American cultural history, Cassady was a pretty terrible person The author tried a little too hard to pepper the book with beat-ese which I guess is appropriate, but I can't stand the beat style. Also although he was hugely influential to an important part of American cultural history, Cassady was a pretty terrible person

  12. 4 out of 5

    Thom

    He's the goof. He's the goof.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lori Watson koenig

    I love reading books about really smart people. Neal Cassady was one and the good books about him that I've read tell more about his intelligence than his antics. This book was one of the good ones. I made me want to read a bunch of classic philosophical books that are mentioned. Great book if you love Cassady, just ok if you don't. I love reading books about really smart people. Neal Cassady was one and the good books about him that I've read tell more about his intelligence than his antics. This book was one of the good ones. I made me want to read a bunch of classic philosophical books that are mentioned. Great book if you love Cassady, just ok if you don't.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jerome Ellison Murphy

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jim

  16. 5 out of 5

    Crazycarl

  17. 4 out of 5

    John Ervin

  18. 5 out of 5

    Justin

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andy

  20. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jason Robinson

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gena

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kelvin Nel

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  26. 5 out of 5

    William

  27. 5 out of 5

    S.A. Griffin

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mollie Bergeron

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sara

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nicole Withrow

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