OGDEN, Utah – A series of activities and events are planned for Feb. 8 in Ogden and Salt Lake City to celebrate the 80th birthday of the late Beat writer and muse Neal Cassady, who was born in Salt Lake City.
Author Michael Schumacher will present the lecture “Neal Cassady and the Beat Generation,” at 11 a.m. in the Stewart Library Special Collections at Weber State University’s Ogden campus. That evening, at 6:30 p.m., historian and WSU archivist John Sillito will speak on “Salt Lake City in the 1920s,” at a gathering at Cassady’s childhood home at 48 West Broadway in Salt Lake City. An hour later the festivities will move to Ken Sanders’ Rare Books, 268 South 200 East, for a reading and additional remarks by Schumacher.
Born in Salt Lake City on Feb. 8, 1926, Cassady is best known for encouraging Beat authors such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Ken Kesey. Cassady often appeared as thinly disguised characters in his friends’ fiction and poems. For instance, Cassady took the guise of Dean Moriarity in Kerouac’s autobiographical “On the Road”; he was mentioned in Ginsberg’s seminal work, “Howl”; and his days as the bus driver for Kesey’s Merry Pranksters were recorded in Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”.
While Cassady’s own literary output was relatively small, he promoted a geographic link between Beat Generations on both coasts of the United States, and he provided a literary link between the Beat Generation and later movements. He died in Mexico in 1968, a few days before his 42nd birthday.
Schumacher, who conducts literary seminars and workshops for “Writer’s Digest,” has authored several important cultural studies. These include “Dharma Lion: A Critical Biography of Allen Ginsberg” and “Family Business,” a compilation of correspondence between Allen Ginsberg and his father, Louis Ginsberg. Schumacher’s most recent book, “Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” recently won an award in Michigan.
The day’s events are co-sponsored by the Utah Humanities Council, WSU’s Stewart Library and Ken Sanders’ Rare Books. For more information, call John Sillito at (801) 626-6416.
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