Are you a fan of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road? Were you pleasantly surprised, as was your reporter, by Walter Salles’ recently released film adaptation of that book? Was it strangely incomplete in its effect? Did you wonder what was missing? If you’re looking for “the story behind the story,” you can find it in One and Only: The Untold Story of `On the Road, co-written by Memory Babe author Gerald Nicosia, who founded his writing career on books about the Beats, in particular Jack Kerouac. One and Only, readily available in Denver bookstores, gives voice to the previously barely rendered Lu Anne Henderson (Dean Moriarty’s teen girlfriend Marylou in On The Road), with the help of Lu Anne’s daughter Anne Marie Santos, drawing on transcriptions of tapes from Nicosia’s lengthy interview with the subject in 1978. Henderson was the first wife of Neal Cassady (aka Dean Moriarty) and, among other things, the reason Kerouac and Cassady became such friends, a piece of data never yet broadly understood, owing partly to her rivalry with Neal’s second wife, Carolyn Cassady (Off The Road), and partly to the sexism still overweaning in the literary community. As a rule, Beat girl friends, lovers, wives, and ex-wives, even female Beat writers are marginalized and under-portrayed in biographies of the males involved. Nicosia’s book makes swift hash of this prehistoric failing. Nicosia's writing about visiting the ailing Henderson in bed, his inability to resist her preternatural personal charm which causes him to fall half in love with her over the course of their conversation, and his chastened shock upon learning her to be a heroin addict is extremely compelling. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in the a growing body of history concerning America's mid-Twentieth Century counterculture movement, presenting the female perspective on this fictive landmark as well as insight into the real life personalities inspiring Kerouac’s fictionalization of his own wild, sad, strange, joyous life. It also includes a section based entirely on commentary from Al Hinkle (called variously Slim Buckle and Big Ed Dunkel in different books by Kerouac). Like Jones’s Use My Name, and Johnson’s Door Wide Open, Nicosia’s One and Only provides the backstory to a classic American cultural stage, broadening readers’ impressions of that cherished chestnut. Far from the disposable teen floozie she has been misrepresented as, Lu Anne Henderson was among Cassady’s most valued female connections, a person with whom he stayed in contact to various degrees from the beginning of their relationship in Denver until just the end of his own driven life, reportedly showing up at her California doorstep in the Merry Pranksters’ multicolored day-glo Acid bus, “Furhtur” (sic), only to be gently turned away as a part of Lu Anne’s past no longer fitting with her present. Actress Kristen Stewart, who plays Marylou in On The Road, has reportedly been a fan of On The Road since her teens, participated in a “Beat boot camp” along with the actors playing Sal Paradise (Jack Kerouac) and Dean Moriarty, and took the time to listen to the entirety of Nicosia’s interview with Henderson. She says Lu Anne’s “estrogen” was the necessary element to seal that movement’s success. Though limited by novel’s text, in this reviewer’s opinion, Stewart’s portrayal of Marylou stands head and shoulders above her acting in what’s it called oh yeah Twilight. But that’s just me. I mean him.
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