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One and Only
The Untold Story of On the Road and LuAnne Henderson, the Woman Who Started Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady on Their Journey
Gerald Nicosia, Anne Marie Santos
ISBN: 9781573449557
Book (Paperback)
Viva Editions
5 1/2 x 8 1/4
244 pages
April 2, 2013


"A revealing portrait...A welcome addition to the growing literature on the women of the Beat Generation. With a generous selection of black-and-white photographs." —Library Journal

“It takes a Zen-like skill to tightrope-walk the 60 years of complexity and rumor that lay across Beat legends Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. Gerald Nicosia effortlessly performs the feat using his interviews with Cassady's first wife, Lu Anne, as his point of entry. Nicosia has a historian’s vision that generously accommodates the ambivalences and Rashomon quality of memory. With a breezy and genuine beatitude, Nicosia renders the pre-On the Road Beat world with an admiration that doesn’t discount its occasional irony and fraud. One and Only is a book of masterful craft subversively camouflaged as coolly minimal in which the sophisticated tricks of the trade of fiction are used to tell a real story.” —Kate Braverman, author of Lithium for Medea, Palm Latitudes, and Squandering the Blue

Beloved by both Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, Lu Anne Henderson has never told her story. Lu Anne was a beautiful 15-year-old girl in Denver in 1945 when she met Neal, a fast-talking hurricane of male sexuality. The two married, and soon they were hanging out with a group of young would-be writers, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. But Neal and Jack initially didn’t like each other. Lu Anne ended up loving them both, and she taught them how to love each other — giving Kerouac material for one of the seminal novels of the 20th century, On the Road. One and Only traces the immense struggles of Lu Anne’s life, from the split-up of her family during the Great Depression to the ravages of abusive men and a late-life heroin addiction. It shows how her life intertwined with Jack’s and Neal’s to the very end.

Gerald Nicosia is a biographer, historian, poet, playwright and novelist. His biography of Jack Kerouac, Memory Babe, won the Distinguished Young Writer Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters while still a work-in-progress. Called a “great book” by Allen Ginsberg and “by far the best of the many books published about Jack Kerouac’s life and work” by William Burroughs, it is still widely regarded as the definitive work on Kerouac.

From his years of work with Vietnam veterans on their issues of healing from the war came his book Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement, which won numerous honors and was picked by the Los Angeles Times as one of the “Best Books of the Year” in 2001. He has written numerous critical articles and reviews for almost every major newspaper in the U.S., and he publishes his poetry widely in the small presses, having earned a number of Pushcart nominations along the way. Nicosia was invited by Director Walter Salles to pioneer the "Beat Boot Camp," creating an immersion experience for the actors in the upcoming major movie of On the Road.

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