Archive for the ‘Carolyn Cassady’ Tag

15 Shades of Gray (Day 65)


This morning did an interesting Allen Ginsberg-related interview with Kathelin Gray, a close associate of William Burroughs who crossed paths with Ginsberg on a regular basis, initially on the hippy scene in her home city of San Francisco and later in New York in the Lower East Side playground of Ginsberg’s circles. She has impeccable Beat credentials in that her mother was a close friend of Carolyn Cassady and she remembers being bounced on the knee of the elegant blonde. She works across a range of disciplines including producing, writing, directing and curating. She produced a documentary featuring Free Jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman and indeed there’s an Ornette Coleman/Pat Metheny track named after her. She consulted for ECM in the 80s (who have been on my radar for Music case studies) and was involved recently in Godfrey Reggio’s latest film, Visitors, with a soundtrack by Philip Glass (who collaborated with Reggio on the Koyaanisqatsi trilogy and of course collaborated with Ginsberg).

We met at BAFTA (good to be using my membership a bit more during this time) and talked first about Ginsberg and then about Kathelin’s broad-ranging work. We spoke about her involvement in Biosphere 2, a closed ecological system experiment in Arizona, and her current focus, a project based on the Research Vessel Heraclitus, a 25-metre Chinese junk. Since 1975 its multicultural crew of explorers and artists has sailed the vessel over 270,000 miles, in every sea except the Arctic. The current three year expedition is to study the changing port cultures of the Mediterranean. I could do with a bit of Med myself right now under these grey skies.

In the afternoon I wrestled a bit with the Tony Wilson chapter which has reached a treacly bit. I’ll just have to persist and keep writing til I get out the other side…

By way of consolation prize, I popped downstairs to Hatchards and bought myself a signed copy of Robert Harris’ latest novel about the Dreyfus Affair to read as my down-time book over the holidays.

Quand le ciel bas et lourd pèse comme un couvercle

[Baudelaire, Spleen – Les Fleurs du Mal]


Dead Beat (Day 16)

Carolyn cassady

A first set back. Today I started setting up interviews. Or that was the plan…

I began by talking to Jemima KIss at The Guardian’s Technology section about her preferred methods and tech for recording interviews, live and over the phone. No point reinventing the wheel. My Live Scribe recorder is en route (Jemima’s strong recommendation from a chat we had a couple of months ago at the launch of Aleks Krotoski’s new book Untangling the Web). She gave me some very practical tips from her considerable experience, including a strong preference for conducting interviews face to face.

As we were drawing to an end, Jemima unwittingly dropped a bomb-shell. Had I seen the lovely obituary for Carolyn Cassady in The Times the other day? That was the second interview I was planning to set up. She passed away on Friday. I knew Carolyn, ex-wife of Beat protagonist Neal Cassady, was a ripe old age around 90 and at the back of my mind was a doubt as to whether she’d be fit to talk, but nonetheless I was really looking forward to meeting her (she’s been living, conveniently, in Berkshire since the early 80s) and had written a sensitive set of questions (given that people were always going to her to talk about the men in her life, not her self) in the back of my copy of her book Off The Road. Not to be. Good for her as she had been alone for half a century or more, and I hope will get to see Neal again, and he’ll be a bit wiser with old age and immateriality. Bad for me but I just had to take it on the chin and learn something about moving quickly (had I approached her as soon as I had the notion to interview her rather than doing loads of research first I might have struck lucky).

Taking the cue, I got in touch with my first planned interviewee who I’d heard loved to talk. He was a bit terse. Not quite the model of openness and generosity. But he is also quite an age and not so well. It may yet work out but I won’t hold my breath.

The rest of the day went a bit better. I was trying to pin down my Theatre case study and my number one suspect is looking good. I had a delightful phone conversation with dramatist and novelist Stella Duffy (always loved the name Stella thanks to Hal Hartley but my other half wasn’t open to it due to Northern Irish connotations, on top of which we never had a girl). Stella confirmed Joan Littlewood as a sound choice. She is currently driving a really interesting project to realise an unfulfilled vision of Joan’s – Fun Palaces where regular people could participate and collaborate in the arts and other cultural activity without having to consume and be talked at or down to.

Stella gave a great writing tip – be clear what you want people to FEEL when reading your stuff and then keep those feelings in mind as you write. I think that sounds like a very sound bit of advice which will make an impact in the writing and will apply it immediately. To some extent I think I have instinctively but can certainly up that sensibility as I push on. As I push on with resilience, with stuff upper lip, with courage mon brave…

4 more characters from On The Road

…and because I enjoyed the movie so much this evening at The Phoenix on the high road in East Finchley, here are four of the supporting characters (one of whom lives in Blighty now, in Bracknell of all unhip places)

Carolyn Cassady – Camille

William Burroughs – Old Bull Lee

Joan Vollmer – Jane

Al Hinkle – Ed Dunkel


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