In this edition of Insight, we revisit four conversations that examine writing from four different perspectives: a twisting, turning centuries-long historical mystery, the act of writing to explore personal history and the importance of place, the role one letter played in the launching of a significant writing movement, and writing as an act to save your life and maybe the lives of others.
'The Missing Pages'
In 2010, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles was drawn into a lawsuit over a piece of art in its collection. The Armenian Church sued the Getty for the return of eight pages of an illuminated manuscript called the Zeytun Gospels. During World War I, the manuscript was cleaved in two, with the eight pages making the journey from Armenia to LA and into the hands of the Getty collection.
In a conversation from April 2019, UC Davis Art History Professor Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh tells us about her new book, "The Missing Pages: The Modern Life of a Medieval Manuscript from Genocide to Justice." The book is a biography of this illuminated manuscript that became the subject of international controversy.
'Freeman’s' And The Future Of New Writing
Essayist and poet John Freeman started a literary journal in 2015 called "Freeman’s." The journal’s theme is the future of new writing. It is published in collaboration with The New School in New York City, where Freeman also teaches writing. Freeman is also Executive Editor at Lit Hub and Writer in Residence at New York University.
Insight host Beth Ruyak’s October 2017 conversation with John Freeman included essayist and story writer Garnette Cadogan. Cadogan is a visiting scholar at NYU and MIT.
The Letter That Inspired Jack Kerouac’s 'On The Road'
Neal Cassady was better known as the man who inspired artists in the Beat Generation than as an artist himself. In December 1950, Cassady sent the fabled “Joan Anderson Letter” to Jack Kerouac. The letter inspired Kerouac’s "On The Road" and set off a literary revolution. The letter was considered “lost” for more than 60 years, until it was rediscovered in the files of Golden Goose Press in 2012. That was the same small company that printed the works of Allen Ginsberg and Kenneth Rexroth.
Cathy Cassady Sylvia is Neal Cassady’s daughter. She joined Insight in November 2017 to recount the journey of the Joan Anderson letter and Cassady Sylvia’s father’s role in the history of the Beat Generation.
Alive And Writing
Melinda Welsh is founding editor of the Sacramento News & Review and helped launch the alternative weekly in 1989. If you’ve read the words and ideas of an artist, musician, community activist, or newsmaker in Sacramento, there’s a pretty good chance Melinda Welsh helped put their message on newsstands. She has taught generations of reporters, photographers and designers how to practice journalism. Many college students honed their craft under her mentorship. Welsh stepped down from News & Review in summer 2012 after 23 years at the paper.
In 2014, her doctors diagnosed her with Stage IV cancer, and by December 2015, after numerous treatments, she was told she had about a year to live. She is still alive and is cancer free.