Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 496

Portraits of Allen Ginsberg by Carolyn Cassady in the home of Jami Cassady and her husband Randy Ratto in Santa Cruz, California, December 8, 2020, via San Francisco Chronicle

Haven’t had a Friday Round-Up for a while. So we’ll get right into it.

We broke the news last month of the first publication of the legendary Joan Anderson Letter, the letter by Neal Cassady that allegedly inspired Jack Kerouac‘s breakthrough into spontaneous prose in On The Road.

Sam Whiting in the San Francisco Chronicle provides the back story.

Seems the impetus for this Black Spring Press Group edition came from Jami Cassady, the middle of the three Cassady children, and husband Randy Ratto, incorporated as the Neal &  Carolyn Cassady Estate.  Much to several folks’ surprise!  Elaine Katzenberger at City Lights, publishers of Neal’s The First Third, had no idea the book was out. And Cathy Cassady, Jami’s older sister, speaks out – and is quoted in the article – “I am not happy with what my sister did going behind our backs with the publication of the Joan Anderson Letter…What is out there is not what I had in mind. I’d like to see a special collector’s edition with everybody involved saying their part in the journey of the lost and found letter, from Dad’s typewriter in 1950 through the book we just got.”

Notwithstanding, the significance of the book remains undisputed.
Beat historian and Kerouac biographer, Dennis McNally is quoted – “The Joan Anderson Letter” is the seed from which On the Road grows..The heavens opened up and the choir started singing inside of Kerouac’s brain. The choir said, ‘This is it.’ ”
and Beat scholar, Matt Theado (from Kyoto City University) – “To read it is to be transported to Cassady’s Denver in the mid-1940s, the pool halls and back seats of cars and cheap hotels, but also to Kerouac’s kitchen table in December 1950, where he absorbed his friend’s deeply personal, highly entertaining letter.”
Black Spring Press Group publisher Todd Swift – “This is probably one of the most important and influential letters in American literature, and certainly the raunchiest…I won’t lie, elements of it are disturbing in the light of today’s changed values, but the rebellious power shines through.”
And, of course, Kerouac famously declared it “the greatest piece of writing I ever saw”.


Another previously-reported topic (and on the occasion of Aaron Sorkin’s 2020 Netflix film) –  The Chicago Conspiracy Trial

Media Burn Archives (out of Chicago) have recently made available some remarkable previously-unseen footage.   R.G (Ronnie) Davis, founder of the legendary San Francisco Mime Troupe, in January 1970 (while the trial was still in progress) videotaped an hour of unedited, uninterrupted dialog with all seven defendants  (sans Bobby Seale, who had already been severed from the federal case). They discuss “the injustices of the US court system, the tactics of protest and revolution, and the prevailing problem of systemic racism” – (all issues highly relevant to contemporary times!)
As Jonah Raskin points out, in his review of the footage for CounterPunch, “reality (here) beats fiction” – “The video tells a story that Aaron Sorkin’s feature film..can’t and doesn’t tell”.


Allen’s relationship to the New York Times in his lifetime was, let’s say…complicated. So, pleasing to see an appearance these past two Sundays!   From a piece by David Vecsey (on editorial errors and blunders) –  “Reading through New York Times corrections is like taking a guided tour of journalism’s pitfalls. It’s where you discover the Ginsberg-Ginsburg Vortex, a black hole that has devoured many a journalist who has confused the names of the poet and the justice…” (Yes! true!) – and, from the Christmas/years-end edition, under the heading “New and Noteworthy” –  The Fall of America Journals  is cited among five recommended “Recent Titles of Interest”.


This coming Sunday – 10 to 10.30 (PST) – at San Francisco’s  Contemporary Jewish Museum there’s a free on-line program, a talk – “Sunday Stories – Dylan-Ginsberg” (an examination of the relationship)  – see here.  (You might also want to catch an earlier Ginsberg “Sunday Story” – here)


&  It’s the anniversary of Herbert Huncke‘s birth tomorrow.

Here’s a glimpse of the great man, via his friend, videographer Laki Vazakas, bopping to the music of Kraftwerk, in January 1994, in his private room at the Chelsea Hotel.

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