The ‘Joan Anderson’ Letter – The Holy Grail of Beat Literature by Neal Cassady

The most famous letter in Beat generation history – from Neal Cassady to his best friend and travelling companion Jack (On the Road) Kerouac

Joan AndersonKerouac received the letter from Cassady in 1950 and later told the Paris Review it had inspired On the Road and his new literary style – referring to it as ‘the greatest piece of writing I ever saw’. The energy of Cassady’s fast-paced, free-flowing, confessional prose pulsates through the 15,000 word missive – bringing gloriously to life the personality of one of the most high profile figures in literary, and Beat movement, history.

The legendary artefact – which describes in explicit detail his relationship with Joan Anderson (‘a perfect beauty of loveliness that I forgot everything else’) – had been missing for 60 years when it was discovered in an attic in Oakland, USA, in 2014. Legal machinations over its ownership ensued and it has not been published in its entirety…until now.

This much-anticipated letter is now reproduced in full, with an introduction by Beat scholar Professor A. Robert Lee. This jewel of Beat history also includes a range of photographs of the writers and a rare sepia drawing of Neal by his former wife, writer and artist Carolyn Cassady.

The ‘Joan Anderson’ Letter is available on

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