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The First Third

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,063 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
Immortalized as Dean Moriarty by Jack Kerouac in his epic novel, On the Road, Neal Cassady was infamous for his unstoppable energy and his overwhelming charm, his savvy hustle and his devil-may-care attitude. A treasured friend and traveling companion of Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and Ken Kesey, to name just some of his cohorts on the beatnik path, Cassady ...more
Paperback, 222 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by City Lights Publishers (first published 1971)
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On the Road by Jack KerouacHowl and Other Poems by Allen GinsbergThe Dharma Bums by Jack KerouacNaked Lunch by William S. BurroughsJunky by William S. Burroughs
Beat Lit
29th out of 164 books — 141 voters
On the Road by Jack KerouacChronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob DylanHowl and Other Poems by Allen GinsbergJunky by William S. BurroughsMemoirs of a Beatnik by Diane di Prima
19th out of 106 books — 9 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
What do you get when you take a largely obscure friend of the Beats, a trainhoppin', dumpster divin', memoir-writin', seemingly spacey/flighty/ants-in-the-pantsy, dirty-talkin', borderline nymphomaniac star of On the Road, and kill him in his prime? Congratulations! You get a collection of incomplete stories! You get a tediously unedited account of Neal Cassidy's life between age 5 and 10. AND I MEAN ONLY THE YEARS BETWEEN 5 AND 10 (maybe even 9...I am writing this review without the book in fro ...more
Dec 09, 2012 Jay rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
If I were going to create a list of must-read American memoirs, The First Third would be on the list. Cassady was and remains one of those intense, legendary figures who was regarded by his peers as larger than life, but, sadly, departed that life sooner than they, or probably he, anticipated. I always thought Neal Cassady and Jimi Hendrix would have been friends.

This modest autobio is very restrained and measured in its style. His writing is almost plodding, which I found ironic, given his irr
GK Stritch
Oct 02, 2014 GK Stritch rated it it was amazing
I was about to re-read The First Third, but couldn’t do it again. I found it too painful to think of a little boy living on skid row at the Metro with Shorty and all the Denver down-and-outs; the barber in bed without sheets, drunk; Neal wearing the cruel stepbrother’s hand-me-downs, and “too-short shoes;” and “I was always hungry then,” during the Great Depression. But young, energetic Neal rises above it and somehow finds the light and life and fun in this outcast world, and the rest is fairly ...more
Matthew Ciaramella
Jan 03, 2011 Matthew Ciaramella rated it liked it
I learned from this that bitches ain't shit but tricks and hoes. I also learned that being Neal Cassady kinda sucked mainly cause you were broke all the time and your older brother made you fight mexican kids to "get tough". Although in the case of Neal you go on to be the inspiration of an entire generation simply by being crazy and fucking everything that moves. What a life!
May 21, 2010 Ned rated it liked it
it's not a good book, but Neil is in there, you can read him slapping these words out in a craze, and to get in the head of this man is worth the trip it takes to get through the book.
Arthur Cravan
Oct 21, 2015 Arthur Cravan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: beat, biography
I honestly didn't know what to expect from this book, suffice to say my expectations weren't high. But this book surprised me at first, & as I got used to it, I just dug it more & more. It's rare I enjoy the formative childhood years included in any biography - not caring for my own & somehow always denying their vast effects on the later psyche - but in this book, I really didn't want them to end &, if the later aspects were not so telling of Neal the Man, I would have been upse ...more
Jul 29, 2015 Jake rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So Neal Cassady is Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's On the Road and plays himself in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test plus he was pals with Allen Ginsberg and William S Burroughs and Ken Kesey and assorted other writers, so of course he'd write a book. I think his life was his art more than his writing was. It's not a badly written book, but is a little scatter brained. But it was interesting to get some background into the dude who inspired Kerouac. As he admits, he read some Proust a ...more
For a long time I didn't think any of Neal's writing had really survived so I was very pleasantly surprised to find this. I kept thinking how great it was to finally be able to read something by him and try and get a glimpse of what Jack, Alan and Carolyn saw in him.

In a way a lot of what he was writing about was very shocking and so hard to imagine today. Being a kid with an alcoholic father, living in homeless shelters and eating at soup kitchens. He obviously had a really hard childhood and
May 20, 2012 Mat rated it liked it
The First Third, Neal Cassady's 'autobiography', starts off really well, especially the first 80 pages or so but as Cassady biographers have revealed through their extensive research, this can hardly be called an accurate portrait of his childhood and life which is partly due to Cassady's own notorious and well-celebrated habit of self-mythologizing and partly due to his father telling a young Neal many 'facts' which later turned out to be inaccurate or in some cases totally wrong (See David San ...more
Aug 22, 2013 Christine rated it liked it
Even though I am a huge Neal Cassady fan, I am only giving this book three stars... It is very slow moving, over-written, over detailed, ugh... I always found it ironic that Neal Cassady's mercurial, on-the-move personality translated as slow and methodical on the page, while Kerouac's slow and deliberate personality translated as hyper-kinetic on the page! Go figure. Persona/ voice, I know.

I recommend this book for Beat fans. It is probably the truest story we will ever get of Cassady's bleak
Nov 20, 2007 Steven rated it really liked it
Only stupid people would ask for Cassidy to punctuate or change his writing style. He wrote this book during more destructive parts of his life, as the writing clearly illustrates. As he moved closer to the end, his mind became exceedingly interested writing with more disorganization, often challenging himself to see how long he could write a single sentence. This is a great look into the self destructive nature of a great counter culture hero.
Dennis Wade
favorite book ever. the language is one flowing poem. 35 word sentences and a drawing of a seven year old vagina (drawn by a seven year old boy) plus soul touching lines like, "So love goes, so life goes, so I go. Carry on my brother." -NC
Nov 30, 2009 Shaun rated it really liked it
For some reason, Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac remind me of Hemmingway and Fitzgerald. But with more drinking, drugs (?), and with sharing women.
This book is mildly ridiculous by any standard. Neal Cassady is something of an unsung legend nowadays. The inspiration for Jack Kerouac's well-remembered Dean Moriarty, Cassady was the fuel that ignited the fire of the Beat movement. He was admired for his rapid-fire style, his mad adventures, and his boundless enthusiasm. Which is ridiculous, as I said before, as the first half of this book plods horribly.

That isn't to say this isn't interesting.

Cassady paints a vibrant picture of the time i
I think and feel that if Neal hadn't of died before completing this, it would have faired better for me. But as it is (incomplete, followed by blurry and fast paced fragments and dizzyingly fast paced letters), I don't get a strong enough experience here to legitimize four stars.

But it's not bad, what is there. Only three chapters and an interestingly extensive prologue (dealing with the family history of his mother and father), the book is a find for any that is curious enough about it.

The wr
Matthew Timion
May 09, 2013 Matthew Timion rated it liked it
Shelves: beat-generation
After reading the first half of the book (the autobiographical part) I nearly did not continue reading the rest. After all I was not very interested in reading random writings by Cassady nor did I care to read letters he had written to Kerouac.

The writing style in the first half of the book is rather boring. I don't know how Cassady managed to write about being sexual active at the age of 7, or being homeless and traveling the country on train cars in a way that didn't elicit a bit of curiosity
Jul 26, 2009 Sam rated it really liked it
An fractured, incomplete, and intimate autobiography. Fans of Kerouac and his "real life hero" Dean Moriarty (who's life and character was based on the author) will appreciate this book the most.

Although Cassady's life during his friendships with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, William Burroughs, and Ken Kesey is well chronicled in Kerouac's "On The Road" books and Tom Woolf's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test", his childhood and young life remained a mystery. This 'discovered' autobiography, publi
Dane Cobain
Oct 06, 2013 Dane Cobain rated it really liked it
Neal Cassady is a fascinating character - you might know him as Dean Moriarty in On The Road, one of Jack Kerouac's closest friends and a hugely underrated member of the beat movement. While the world mostly knows of Cassady because of Kerouac's immortalisation of him, he's an important literary figure in his own right, albeit one who was overshadowed by Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs.

As The First Third shows, Neal Cassady had a way with words that occasionally equaled his contemp
Dave Maddock
Apr 09, 2016 Dave Maddock rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
The good: Cassady's writing style is distinctive and you can see how Kerouac ripped him off. Also, his early life of abuse and neglect gives some context to his adult behavior. The bad: Cassady was an asshole. A personable, charismatic, intelligent and entertaining one for sure, but asshole nevertheless.

My comments about On the Road apply here, times 100.
Mar 29, 2011 Bob rated it really liked it
There are a couple of editions of this - the earlier one (1971, I think), which I read sometime in the last century, drops us in medias res, as we start with 6-year-old Neal, hop-scotching his way to kindergarten from Denver's skid row in the 1930s, having somehow been granted the dubious privilege of being the only one of quite a few half-siblings and siblings to live with his wino father, while the rest remain with his mother.
This more recent (1981) edition prepends a bunch of temporarily lost
This really didn't hold my interest at all until the childhood memoirs ended, and even then, a lot of the writing was a bit too... discombobulated to really catch my attention very heavily. I guess there's a reason Cassady's place in literary history has nothing to do with his writing itself.
J. Michael
Sep 06, 2014 J. Michael rated it it was ok
Were it not for the fact Jack Kerouac considered him to be a muse, that Allen Ginsberg was his on/off lover, and William S. Burroughs loathed him, a self-respecting editor would have sent the standard rejection notice before finishing the the first third of the manuscript.
John Opalenik
Feb 18, 2014 John Opalenik rated it it was ok
Not great. I'd venture to say that the only reason 90% of the people who read it do so is because Neal Cassady wrote it. I guess it's easy to forget that he was a force of nature more so than a writer.
Cem Aksal
Apr 06, 2014 Cem Aksal rated it it was amazing
Neal Cassady'nin ilk ve tek kitabı...
Cassady bu kitapta, ailesinin geçmişinden başlayarak, caddelerde arabayla nasıl kız tavaladıklarına değin, kendi hayatının en içsel ayrıntılarını vermiştir.
Feb 15, 2008 Famous rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although the title is in french here, i am certainly reading it in english. I got quickly involved in this book finding the story engaging as a plain, honest telling of how lives go. This one is about some hard-luck beginnings. My interest began to drift, however, as Neal Cassidy arrives at the telling of his own story (the book starts with a family history). The writing bogs down in minutia like "first we went here, then we went there, and then over there". Interspersed, however, are some life ...more
Josh Woods
I had such high hopes for this book. Every recount of the beat generation raves about Cassidy and the (apparent) writing style that inspired the lot. But this work was just wordy and plain and mostly uninteresting. Cassidy seemed to be on a mission to never use the same word twice. I really can't do it justice, it's just terribly, terribly over-involved and indulgent. However, the book did earn it's second star from the letters included. Seemingly, when Cassidy doesn't feel he's writing formally ...more
Jim Beatty
Mar 21, 2015 Jim Beatty rated it it was amazing
Thought it was amazing, as good as Kerouac. Then his widow wrote how average it was in the afterword, and my view was shaken. He was not the most true of husbands, however. Great Denver History in the early chapters.
Jan 14, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it
Cassady's writing is overflowing with great stories, sketches, and wisdom of Growing up in America. He was heavily into Proust and it is apparent in this book. The collection of letters are wonderful. Written to his friend, Jack, they are vivid snapshots of himself and the world he lived in. His book is a must read for anyone interested in the Beat Generation.
Mar 04, 2014 Remy rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book! Man, Neal Cassady! Dean Moriarty! What a great guy, but unfortunately not a great writer....
Jun 25, 2013 Joe rated it liked it
I read the first edition, which I bought at City Lights Bookstore the day it came out, I guess 1971. I only saw Neal once: he walked into City Lights and totally electrified the place - he had charisma like a lightning bolt. Amazing. All he did was sit there and bum a cigarette, and nobody could take eyes off him. As for the book, apparently there's more stuff added in later editions, but the first edition was just Neal mouthing off as only Neal could do. It's a document, not a book, a sample of ...more
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  • Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg
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Neal Leon Cassady was a major figure of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the psychedelic movement of the 1960s, perhaps best known for being characterized as Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road.
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“Sometimes I sits and thinks. Other times I sits and drinks, but mostly I just sits.” 44 likes
“The time has come, everybody lie down so you won't get hurt when the sun bursts.” 22 likes
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