Grace Beats Karma

Grace Beats Karma: Letters from Prison 1958–1960
Neal Cassady

Neal Cassady (1926–1968) inspired a generation of writers including Beat luminaries Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and counterculture authors Ken Kesey and Tom Wolfe to attempt to set down pieces of his exuberant life in their writing. But the complexity of the real-life Neal Cassady has never been as poignantly and starkly revealed as in his letters written from San Quentin to his wife Carolyn, their three children, and his godfather. In 1958, as the Beat movement was taking American culture by storm, Cassady was taken off the streets when he was handed a draconian sentence of five years to life for selling three marijuana cigarettes to undercover cops. Writing from the isolation of prison, he unveiled many sides of himself that have been obscured by the mythological man conjured up by his friends and fans: Neal Cassady the devoted family man, the loyal railroad brakeman, the self-doubting seeker of enlightenment. Tender, resentful, beatific, lustful, euphoric, despairing, and humorous, these letters provide new insight into Cassady's life, of which he himself remarked, "Seldom has there been a story of a man so balled up."


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