Headline: Menage a trois: the lady in the middle
"We'll be together, you are my one and only wife." –
Neal Cassady in a letter to LuAnn.
Lu Anne Henderson was a beautiful 15-year-old girl in Denver in 1945 when she met Neal Cassady, a fast-talking hurricane of male sexuality and vast promises. The two married, and soon they were hanging out with a group of young would-be writers, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. But Neal and Jack initially didn't like each other very much. Lu Anne ended up loving them both, and she taught them how to love each other - in effect, making the Beat Generation possible, as well as giving Kerouac material for one of the seminal novels of the 20th century, On the Road. One and Only traces the immense struggles of Lu Anne's own life, which ranged from the split-up of her family during the Great Depression, to the ravages of abusive men and the grief of losing the two most important men in her life; and shows how her life intertwined with Jack's and Neal's to the very end.
As a reference to my review headline - the ménage a trois you're probably thinking about is the suggested threesome between Neal Cassady, Lu Anne and Allen Ginsberg...but then, it could also mean the threesome between Neal, Lu Anne and Jack Kerouac. Talk about a love dodecahedron.
On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, is one of the cornerstones of modern literature. What gets me is that compilations or literary Beat collections - it's the boys who get all all the press. What i loved about this book, was that I got to really hear the voice of Lu Anne, the inspiration for jailbait-esque MaryLou in On the Road. Oversexed, undereducated martyr with daddy issues? Or...selfless muse with the penchant for a bit of masochism? The book chapters alternate between interviews with real life Lu Anne (at her deathbed), her daughter, and biographer Gerald Nicosia.
I love books like these because it absolutely belongs within an entire web of information - this could be your own private literary investigation. You should definitely start by checking out On the Road, by Jack kerouac. Then maybe following up with The Beats : from Kerouac to Kesey : an illustrated journey through the Beat Generation / Mike Evans - this book changed my perspective of poetry when I was 13. I know k-Stew has been making the headlines for well, being a bit of a lemon tart... Do I like that she plays MaryLou aka Lu Anne, in the movie biopic On the Road which has just hit the cinemas? Possibly not. But it is definitely worth the watch. Try not to consume too many fluids before the film...it is LONG. Finally, finish with a perusal of the famed poem Howl by Allen Ginsberg. Beat poetry and snooping into the lives of Beat poets is an obsession of mine. Even if you don't appreciate it as an art form, you will be affected. Danny, my long-suffering other half who hates most of my 'arty farty' movie picks, said he left the movie feeling sort of like someone strangled and then chopped up a fluffy bunny in front of him. Oh oh oh...and because everyone loves a good catfight - check out Off the Road - the other story by the OTHER woman, Carolyn Cassady.
Beat fans, literary nerds, snoopsa: this is for you. The only hiccup for me is I feel that the heavy matters were glossed over There was a bit too much of this c'est la vie attitude, which is quite un-beat. I wanted to hear more gritty details about Lu Anne's subsequent 3 failed marriages and simultaneous tragic reunions with Neal. But otherwise, I really wish Lu Anne was still alive. I'd totally follow her on Twitter.