THE BRITISH LIBRARY

American Collections blog

25 September 2013

In remembrance of Carolyn Cassady 1923-2013

This time last year Matt and I were frantically trying to get our labels done in advance of the opening of our On the Road exhibition, not to mention eagerly awaiting the arrival of Jim "keeper of the scroll." We were really pleased that the exhibition proved to be so popular over the following three months, although it’s perhaps not too surprising with such a star item on display. But we were also pleased with the "look" of the exhibition, much of which was down to our great designer of course, but also to the fact that we were given permission to use some wonderful photographs by both Allen Ginsberg’s Estate and Carolyn Cassady. In our view, Carolyn took the best photo of Kerouac and Neal Cassady together (though she often doesn’t seem to get credited) and we were delighted to have a big reproduction of it in the exhibition (it now lives in our office). In fact, she was hugely supportive throughout our preparation for the exhibition, as she had been with another Kerouac event we had held a few years earlier to mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Road.  She had been on great form that evening (a recording “An evening for Jack Kerouac” was made and is available in the reading rooms) and she had also donated to us a tape made in the Cassady’s home in San José in 1952, of Neal and Jack in conversation (an excerpt of Neal Cassady reading Proust featured on the soundpoint in the exhibition). So we were really looking forward to seeing her again at the opening of On the Road, but unfortunately, Carolyn was unable to make it as she had been having problems with her leg and the journey up to London from Berkshire would have been too taxing. And now we won’t have another chance to see her – we were really saddened to hear the news of her death last Friday. Of course she was 90 years old, but some people you expect to live forever. We’ll all miss her.

For more on her eventful and extraordinary life, here are the obits from The New York Times; The Los Angeles Times, and The Guardian; a lovely, much more personal tribute from Brian Hassett; and an interview with Carolyn by Polina Mackay from July 2011. And we of course have her books in the collections, in particular, Off the Road.

And if you’ve noticed that we’re not blogging as much usual – I’m afraid it’s because we’re a bit thin on the ground at the moment. Beth is on maternity leave, poor Phil had a cycling accident and has broken his arm and hand, and Matt is very preoccupied with Europeana Collections 1914-1918. Oh, and we have a massive office move too. But stick with us – we’ll be back!

P.S. You can still read all our On the Road exhibition and other Beat-related blogposts here.

[C.H.]

 

 

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