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

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

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by Gerald Nicosia

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“By the time I reached the last page of her account [Anne Marie’s concluding chapter] I was in such a state of heightened emotion I cried. My feelings about One and Only”should be clear by now, after the long weeks we’ve shared together dissecting it. I think it’s a beautifully conceived, edited, and written book, and for the reasons I’ve already outlined, I’m convinced it is the most important addition to Beat scholarship since Nicosia’s Memory Babe."
—Wholly Communion Blogspot

"Gerald Nicosia—preeminent biographer of the Beat Generation and author of Memory Babe—and Anne Marie Santos—daughter of LuAnne Henderson—have joined forces here to tell the back story of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. The result of this rare collaboration is a mesmerizing read. Even if you know nothing about the Beat Generation, Jack Kerouac, his friend Neal Cassaday or their friends, this book will draw you in and keep you hooked. Using interviews with LuAnne Henderson and quotes from Beat icons in Kerouac's, Cassaday's and Henderson's inner circle of fellow travelers, the authors give readers a fascinating literary treat."
—Midwest Book Review

"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

"Nicosia makes a compelling case for Henderson’s unique perspective on and understanding of Kerouac and Cassady, poster boys for the Beat generation. ... A real find for Beat aficionados, adding verve to a cherished moment in American history and the novel that came to define it."
—Kirkus Reviews

"If it hadn't been for a nubile teenager named Lu Anne Henderson, Jack Kerouac never would have hooked up with the legendary Neal Cassady, and never would have written On the Road, the defining novel of the Beat Generation, one of the most influential books of the 10th century.
—Marin Independent Journal

"This is the missing back-story of the back-story of On the Road, the mysterious missing woman a lot of us sensed was there but invisible and silent. Until now. Nicosia has given her voice and made her visible, and she's extraordinary. No wonder both Kerouac and Cassady loved her."
—Russell Banks, author of Cloudsplitter

“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

"One and Only is essential reading for anyone wishing to get the full picture of the Beat Generation. Lu Anne Henderson was Neal Cassady's life-long love and was responsible for the friendship with Kerouac that gave us On The Road. Gerald Nicosia was always a loyal advocate of the women of the Beat Generation, and his remarkable interview with Lu Anne fills in an enormous gap in the story. It shows the vulnerability and insecurities of the main characters, and reveals the chaos of their emotional lives so that Kerouac and company finally emerge as real people! A great book."
—Barry Miles, author of Ginsberg: A Biography; Jack Kerouac: King of the Beats; and the forthcoming authorized biography of William S. Burroughs, Call Me Burroughs

"The passion and knowledge Gerald Nicosia shared through Memory Babe has influenced so many people to appreciate Kerouac and his work; I've read all the Kerouac biographies, and Memory Babe is clearly the best."
—Walter Salles, director of On the Road

“Gerald Nicosia is Kerouac’s best biographer. Critics unanimously praised Memory Babe for its honesty, its broad, deep research, its narrative style, and its respect for and understanding of Jack Kerouac. Now he gives us a different kind of book in One and Only. I am fascinated by characters in fiction who live outside of the book and confront us in real life. Nicosia found Lu Anne Henderson and listened to her voice with great care. He’s written the context, made room so that she can tell her truth about On the Road. We go again but differently on that mythic road with Jack and Neal.”
—Maxine Hong Kingston, author of The Woman Warrior, China Men, Tripmaster Monkey, and The Fifth Book of Peace

“One and Only is an ongoing chapter in the riveting Beat saga, chronicling another life and its poignant hopes and fears. An unsung teen-heroine of the time, Lu Anne Henderson, the young woman on whom the character ‘Marylou’ in On the Road is based, finally has her say. The book is an intimate and revealing portrait in the annals of American belletristic and real life memory.”
—Anne Waldman, author of In the Room of Never Grieve, Iovis and Beats at Naropa, and co-founder of The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Naropa University

“Gerry Nicosia is to the Beat Generation what Alan Lomax was to the history of the blues, the voice-catcher of his generation. In One and Only, written in collaboration with Anne Marie Santos, Nicosia reveals the story behind the story of the great American epic, On the Road, which is to say he uncovers one of its deeply buried secrets. Every myth has one, and the great unknown force that brought Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady together is revealed here for the first time in the vivacious voice of the vixen Lu Anne Henderson. Reading her story is like riding with her in the backseat on one of those long, bluesy romps across the great heartland. Go, go, go...”
—Phil Cousineau, author of Wordcatcher, The Art of Pilgrimage, and The Book of Roads

“The voice of Lu Anne Henderson rises up off the page in this tender yet psychologically acute memoir, transcribed by Gerald Nicosia from tapes he made thirty years ago. Henderson played a crucial, inspirational part in the lives of Cassady and Kerouac, and the true circumstances of their complex relationship are revealed here for the first time. One and Only also shows the poverty and chaos and sometimes the sheer scariness of the lives of the Beats. Above all, the book shows the vulnerability and lack of self-esteem, the confusion and jealousy, which lay behind Cassady and Kerouac’s machismo. Henderson’s crucial insight is that Cassady and Kerouac, despite their profound friendship, were ‘totally unaware of the other one’s real feelings,’ a situation which only got worse when they became cultural icons. This new book by Nicosia is an invaluable contribution to Beat history.”
—Ian MacFadyen, British Beat scholar and editor of Naked Lunch at 50: Anniversary Essays

"One and Only is an essential addition and corrective to the masculine locus of Beat Generation history. Lu Anne Henderson was a witness and participant in the legendary road trips and saw Neal Cassady, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs in a clear-headed light. Nicosia's reclamation of her centrality to that experience is revelatory. Her testimony captures the complicated involvement with these men with clarity, compassion, and wise humor. This book is a necessary revelation of the female experience in postwar U.S., not to mention the incredible story and insights into the times covered by On the Road and also those after."
—David Meltzer, original Beat poet, author of San Francisco Beats: Talking with the Poets; Beat Things; and David's Copy

“I read One and Only straight through and loved it, and loved the energy that was put into it. Lu Anne, much ignored by most of the biographers except Nicosia, finally comes across as a vital part of the Beat Generation. His new book is an informative and moving portrait of a girl who was really a lady, and lets us see once again how strong was the influence of womanhood on the major Beats, both negative and positive. One and Only is must reading and fills in many gaps. It will become an essential part of the Beat canon.”
—Jerry Kamstra, original Beat poet, author of The Frisco Kid and Weed: Adventures of a Dope Smuggler

“There have always been great women behind the important men of our collective literary existence. Lu Anne Henderson (Cassady) was the apocalyptic spark behind the rowdy duo of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. According to the new book One and Only by Gerald Nicosia, a vital addition to the historical archives of Beat consciousness, Neal and Jack didn’t get along with one another before Lu Anne connected them. Nicosia, one of our most important Beat chroniclers, here delves deeper into places other researchers have left untouched. One and Only exposes the liveliness and magnetic charms of a beautiful woman with a beautiful soul, who led a fascinating yet problematic life.”
—Tony Rodriguez, author of When I Followed the Elephant

“Gerald Nicosia is surely the preeminent historian of the Beat Generation, and One and Only adds new and brightly colored pieces to his vast mosaic.”
—Aram Saroyan, author of Last Rites, Genesis Angels, and Starting Out in the Sixties

“Gerald Nicosia has done it again! He just keeps filling in the pieces of the Beat era for us. One and Only fleshes out the beginnings of On the Road and makes it fuller and more interesting. Lu Anne was certainly a force to be reckoned with. Her lust for life and fullness of being and generosity of spirit show through only too clearly. Her vital North Beach career, her mothering ability, her recovery from heroin addiction, her many marriages, her long clandestine affair with Neal, and her own longevity speak well for her love affair with life as well as with Neal. And her demand for a ‘broad margin to her life,’ showing she had ‘as much right to go through every open door as a man had,’ will strike many women as apt in their own lives. By the 60’s, a number of us followed her. I read One and Only from cover to cover in one day, and Lu Anne’s presence hovers with me still.”
—Joanna McClure, author of Hard Edge, Wolf Eyes and Extended Love Poem

“Gerald Nicosia does such an excellent and thorough job of documenting the ‘Beat Family.’”
—Joanne Kyger, original Beat poet, author of The Japan and India Journals and About Now: Collected Poems

“Gerald Nicosia performs a fascinating feat of balance with One and Only. While preserving his admiration for Jack Kerouac’s writing, he explores—with the collaboration of Anne Marie Santos and the preserved words of Lu Anne Henderson—the faults of character which contribute to an ambiguous cult status for Jack Kerouac and his beau ideal, Neal Cassady. The book is a most valuable addition to Kerouaciana and the legend of Neal Cassady. It also gives Lu Anne a place she deserves, and has not gotten from others.”
—Herbert Gold, author of Fathers and Still Alive

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Read an Excerpt

From Part Three:

Jack would throw me up in the air and catch me. I became the most graceful person in the world. Yeah, I was a ballet star, and he was a Nijinsky! We were fantastic together! He loved it, and so did I, because our confidence used to soar when we danced like that. We didn’t care who was watching. Jack, as everyone knows, was no extrovert in that respect; and believe me, neither have I ever been. I never want to be the center of attraction anywhere. In a group, a room full of people, I just want to sit back and listen. But in that respect, Jack and I would become extroverts, and happily, when we danced. We just thought we were so good. In fact, this dancing bit became like a little secret between the two of us. We really knew how great we were, and we didn’t care where we were. When we got loaded, and Jack would ask me to dance, we’d just start doing the Nijinsky moves all over again. We really did it, and it was like the world disappeared. That’s something I’ve never told anybody.

Meet the Author

GERALD NICOSIA's 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. It remains widely regarded as the definitive work on Kerouac. Also the author of Home to War, Nicosia lives in Corte Madera, CA.

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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 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As an English major in UC Berkeley, a popular book that's on all the coolest professors' lists is Jack Kerouac On the Road. One and Only provides an insight on the leading lady that made On The Road possible. Gerald Nicosia and Anne Marie Santos investigate Lu Anne's journey with Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. She brought the two together; the peanut butter to the boys' sandwich! Not only do we get to read accounts from Lu Anne and her experiences among Kerouac, Cassady as well as other members of the Beat Generation (like Ginsberg!), but the book contains actual photos from Lu Anne herself. One chapter contains a grueling cross-country trip with Al Hinkle. They were crossing the Rocky Mountains in order to pick up Kerouac. They managed to slip off the roads and land in a ditch while a snow storm was blazing. There are plenty of stories like that and all straight from Lu Anne. It's a joy reading the life of your idols; Nicosia and Santos really take the reader to the grooviest times in America's history and all from the point of view of Lu Anne.If you like history, English, or just love anything to do with the Beat Generation. This book is for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's so wonderful to see the behind the scenes of your favorite book. ONE AND ONLY is so beautiful and touching, it was like entering back into Jack's life in a whole new and lovely light. I absolutely loved this book and recommend it to everyone. Gerald Nicosia did such a wonderful job telling Lu Anne's story.