am 1. Juni 2000
Big Sur was the third book by Jack Kerouac that I read (On the Road being the first and Satori in Paris being the second). I thought nothing would top On the Road, but this did. I tried explaining to a friend why I thought this book was better than On the Road, and I told him this book was so much more honest, and so much more grittier. Some of the descriptions Jack gives throughout this book, such as his description of what it's like to be an alcoholic towards the book's beginning, are wonderful. The ending of the book, with Jack returning home to be with his mother (whom he would hardly ever leave for the rest of his life) is truly heartbreaking, and the last line "there's no need to say another word" takes on even more significance when one realizes that this book marks the end of Jack's truly creative period. He continued writing after this, but the works he put out post Big Sur couldn't compare to earlier pieces like this (just read Satori in Paris if you want to see what I mean). I haven't read all of Kerouac's books yet (I'm in the middle of Visions of Gerard) but I would have to say that it's a toss up between this book or the Subterreans as to which is my favorite. Think about this: in the Subterreans, he merely lost a girl. In Big Sur, he lost himself.
am 4. Mai 2014
At the time Big Sur was published in 1962, a decade after Kerouac's eminent novel On the Road, the author was internationally celebrated as the "King of the Beats", a title with which Kerouac himself was deeply uncomfortable. Two of Kerouac's favorite spots to chill out were the San Francisco Bay Area and the coastal Big Sur wilderness, an area running south from Carmel to San Luis Obispo (although I reduce that to the southernmost point of the Big Sur postman, the Santa Lucia Lodge). This is the setting for the novel that is probably the most typical of the author's problematic career. The book draws on a visit to the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti (owner of the fabled City Lights bookstore) and other Bay Area friends and a solitary stay in Ferlinghetti's isolated cabin in Bixby Canyon (in the novel called Raton Canyon with Ferlinghetti given the name Louis Monsanto) and is considered the formal conclusion to the Duluoz legend.
Jack Duluoz experiences a crisis of mind and spirit, so, basically the story tells of the crackup of the "bloody King of the Beatniks" who just can't stand anymore the pursuit by reporters, visitors, and hangers-on attracted by his fame and financial success. Duluoz suddenly realizes he must "make one fast move or I'm gone." So he goes to Big Sur to be completely alone in a friend's cabin in a canyon at the edge of the sea. After a short happy time there, writing down the sounds of the Pacific, watching birds, feeding Alf the mule, Duluoz is overcome by a mood of horror, helplessness and despair and flees to San Francisco. Even Hunter S. Thompson refused to understand why someone as hip as Kerouac couldn't have a good time in Big Sur, and he wrote to a friend that he would give one of his testicles to trade places with Jack so he could drink and drug with the beatniks.
Parties and people: beats, Buddha, booze and sex. Then Cody, his old buddy, introduces him to Billie and he lives with her and her little boy. Yet Duluoz feels stranger and stranger, encountering death everywhere - a dead otter floating in the sea, a dead mouse in the grass. More parties, more people, more jazz, big beautiful Romana, Billie's ex-con friend Perry. Even when they go back to Big Sur, Duluoz cannot sleep. "Sleep is death, death is everywhere." Duluoz describes the onset of insanity so clearly that the reader gets the feeling it's happening to himself.
Kerouac claimed in a letter to his Italian editor Nanda Pivano, that he'd finished "Big Sur" in ten days. He typed the novel single-spaced, at such fast clip that it probably contained less fiction he'd ever written, and it can be immediately identified as an autobiographic document with easily recognizable characters. It is an account of his alcoholic crack-up the previous year. On megadoses of Benzedrine, he'd managed to cut through his hangovers long enough to turn out one of his most honest and shocking novels of his career, comparable in its unflinching depiction of alcoholism and insanity to Fitzgerald's The Crack-Up. In an interview he told the Paris Review that it combined the mystical aura of Tristessa and the confessional hysteria of The Subterraneans.
am 24. Juni 2000
This novel marked the close end to Kerouac. Kerouac was controlled by alcohol and depression. He hopes to find peace in a cabin in the Big Sur(Which I went to just a few weeks and is very beautiful). There he is just tortured by his own thoughts from too much alcohol. In this time Kerouac looks back at his outgoing "On The Road" backpacking days and begs for mercy in his own misery. The main reason I love this novel besides Kerouac's honesty and splendid writing is the message it has on contemporey america. 10 years after "On The Road" and as the 60's unfold so does the destruction of friendly america. Kerouac can barley hitchike because of america's new fear of the hitchiker being a criminal. This is a very symbolic point of how friendly america was and now how everyone lives in fear. We also are re-visited with Kerouac's "On the Road" hero "Dean Moritatey", Who is still wild and hyper but with a family. Kerouac slowly starts to crack for a short while in Big Sur and we see some of Kerouac's most haunting writing ever. This novel also includes a poem Kerouac wrote called "Sea" which translates the sound of the ocean into speaking english. It is tedious yet fascinating at the same time. "Big Sur" remains a potrait of a troubled writer who struggles with society and alcohol addiction. This book should be read by all, However it is not a good to start as an intro to Kerouac( Atleast read "On The Road" first). This may be Kerouac's best work since "On The Road".
am 16. Juni 2000
By 1962 alcohol had become the combustible propellent of Jack Kerouac's saturated imagination. Like matches to the wick, binges could last weeks. 'Big Sur' brings a much different narrator than the frenetic idealist of 'On The Road'. When that was published, years after it had been written, he was touted as the bard of a new generation, a moniker he grew to deeply resent. Popular culture soon trivialized the 'Beats' into a parody of bongo drums and bad poetry. He became perceived by critics as a passing fad. A wounded Kerouac, his attempts to be recognized as a serious writer in disarray, hoped to dry out in a solitary retreat at a cabin at Big Sur. It would be his last genuine effort at sobriety, and this book would become his last great novel.
Much of the book was written in the afterglow of hangovers, or the buzz of the day's first drink. There is weariness here, a sedated fatalism. His spirituality struggles with morbidity. Still, Kerouac's sensual, sensitive poetic prose might have reached its most sublime character in 'Big Sur', even in its fevered sparks of delirium tremens. It drifts, as Kerouac was drifting, in the disillusionment of the post-Beat rancor, then swirls into eddies of luminous energy. The flow of consciousness is viewed as if through a prism which gives experience a subjective, surreal semblance of order. It seems so tantalizingly close to grasping some illusive meaning, that talisman Kerouac had followed through friendships, terrestrial and spiritual wandering, hardscrabble existence, inebriation, all his life.
There is a little quip at the start of the book about the copyright problems he was having with previous publishers, regarding the use of the various names he had attributed to the pantheon of his 'beatnik' friends. The group who became the century's most legendary collection of literary iconoclasts. He describes all of his books as a single Proustian comedy of raging action, folly, sweetness. He whimsies spending his old age reinserting a consistent nomenclature. Of course, the old age would never be. A coherent structure, though, might have robbed the books of their intrinsic spontaneity, the root of their innocence. With all this, there is still a persistent, if subdued, cadence (a beat!) and a wry, if exhausted, humour. Lament or comedy, the roaring storm of On The Road, came crashing ashore at Big Sur, leaving the author a crumpled wreck on the beach. But from these bookends you can glean Kerouac's exhilarating, sad odyssey. 'Big Sur' is its most wrenchingly personal and expressive chapter.
am 15. Mai 2000
A quick, breathless read from the reluctant "King of the Beats." Plot: Jack goes to cabin in Big Sur, spends 3 weeks alone, has brush with insanity, gets bored, goes into town and spends a hundred pages romping with Cody (Neal Cassady) and some of the usual gang, then returns to cabin with Cody's mistress and another couple and goes completely berserk from alcohol delirium tremens. His descriptions of his hallucinations and dreams are unparalleled. The guy just lays everything out on the page. You find yourself wanting to just reach into the book and give poor Jack a big hug, tell him everything's going to be OK, we all love you and want the best for you. The man was completely egoless. It's ironic how the fame he acquired as a "beatnik" prevented him from living a true beat life, which essentially means living as authentically as possible. People confuse it with the clothing, mannerisms, hep talk, which when you read Jack you realize was just a lot of condescending media hype. This book, as with Jack's life, was a constant dance between total bliss and complete despair, and you'll get plenty of book in this superbly written and very readable testament to the human condition.
am 17. Mai 2000
Big Sur is the story of Kerouac's mental and physical breakdown while on "retreat" at Lawrence Ferlinghetti's cabin at Big Sur. Having obtained instant fame after the publication of On the Road, Kerouac was not prepared for the adulation and pressures that accompany success. Pushed, pulled and used by various "hangers-on" on his return to San Francisco, he retreated to Big Sur to try to find solitude and to escape the hectic world of the city. While there, he is able to find the peace he was seeking, but in the end is lured back to the city where he begins a period of heavy drinking.
Several characters from On the Road appear, like Neal Cassady and his wife, Carolyn, and give this novel a sense of continuity with the earlier books. The writing is similar to Kerouac's other efforts, but the prose in Big Sur is tinged with a certain urgency and sense of calamity. The climatic scene in the novel is Kerouac's vivid description of his delirium tremens after several weeks of very heavy drinking. I think this represents some of his best writing as he deals with his own anxieties and a variety of frightening hallucinations.
Not surprising, this novel received the best reviews of any of Kerouac's novels. But just as he was beginning to receive some mainstream acceptance, his experiences in San Francisco and Big Sur (as well as his new found fame) turned him away from the writing experience. Kerouac remarks at the end of the novel: "Books, shmooks, this sickness has got me wishing if I can ever get out of this I'll gladly become a millworker and shut my big mouth." Although a few minor books were to follow Big Sur, they never lived up to his earlier works.
Kerouac's poem, "Sea: Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur," is appended to the end of the novel.
am 4. Januar 2000
Jack Kerouac is famed as the great romantic of the American road, but that reputation ignores his greatest quality as a writer - his searing honesty. By the mid-60s, Kerouac was barely recognisable as the poet laureate of footloose youth. He was bloated, depressed, and romantically disappointed. He was also an alcoholic. One of the many heartbreaking passages in "Big Sur" records his inability to hitch a ride up the Californian coast. Americans, en route to the summer of love, had annexed "beat" culture into the rising ethic of hippie-dom. Kerouac couldn't relate to it, and nor could the hippies relate to him. This cult hero for many hippies couldn't thumb a ride because - overweight, middle-aged and dressed as a down-at-heel working man - Kerouac looked no part of the hippie dream that, in part, he had helped inspire. Alone, lonely, drinking heavily and in terrible emotional and spiritual pain, Kerouac miraculously (for us) sustained his extraordinary honesty about his condition. This, his most truly personal book, is agonising to read - but it is through this book that we come to know him best, and most deeply feel his tragedy. If you've ever worried about your own drinking, this is the book to keep you sober.
am 8. April 1998
It has been about seven years since I have read this book, but it remains my favorite book by my favorite author of novels. The reason I give this review is because I am about to embark on a critical analysis of it for class. I hope that I come out of this sea of emotion with my breath still even!
Out of all of his books this one portrays the crux of Kerouac's life dilemma. If one wants to read unbridled travel narrative, then s/he should go to "On the Road". If one wants to capture all the splendor of the youthful Beat mysticism at its prime, then "Dharma Bums" is likely the best bet. For sheer emotiveness, however, "Big Sur" is possibly without parallel in American literature.
There is one scene that overflows with passion and entreaty to the cosmos. He is involved in a tortuous love affair as he attempts to get off of alcohol. All of this yearning and pathos piles into his psyche and all his mind can do is scream. I don't know about all of the rest of us, but this is a way that I have felt in my life. I am glad there is a novelist like Kerouac who succeeded in publicizing the essential anguish of the American tradition.
If anyone wants to correspond with me on the matter of this book and others by him, please do so. Fresh and contemporary voices will add immeasurable breadth and meaning to my research project. Good day!
am 11. Dezember 1996
After reading "On the Road," I became extremely interested in
the work of Kerouac. The technique used in "Big Sur" should be
noted for its honesty and spontaneous prose that goes on and
on. He rarely uses periods, and his "sentences" are poetic
and deeply moving. It is about his retreat to the cabin of
Lorenzo Monsanto (pseudonym for Lawrence Ferlinghetti).
Monsanto encourages Jack, who has a serious drinking problem,
to live alone in his cabin for several weeks, thereby hoping
that Jack will stop or reduce his drinking. After several
days, he feels improved, as if all of his natural surroundings
and animals like Alf the Sacred Burro are animated and full
of a special spiritual force. The return to San Francisco is
the start of his problems, and the line "Why does God torture
me?" that is used later in the book is so sincere and
painful that I really felt sorry for him. In the middle
section of the book, he meets many of his friends, including
Cody Pomeray (Neal Cassady). However, by the final part of
the book, he is truly "tortured" in a sense and believes
everyone and everything is part of a huge conspiracy to
destroy him. The poem "Sea," at the end of the book, is an
example of his attempts to write the sounds of the Pacific
Ocean at Big Sur on paper.
The book, which was written in a very short period of
time, was a literary experience which I might never see
again. It made me think and realize the pain Kerouac had to
go through. It was an extraordinary piece of art.
am 15. Mai 2000
For any true fans of Jack Kerouac, this book marks the end of a semi-productive career for this writer. Several years after On The Road, Big Sur provides a dark and twisted reflection of the more jovial and adventurous atmosphere to On The Road. The Duluoz Legend was never so grim, nor so sober as in this installation to the saga that was Jack Kerouac. People from Kerouac's daily life make candid appearances throughout the book through characterized aliases. Ferlinghetti appears as Montrose, yet the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco is mentioned the same as in real life. In this story, Kerouac comes to terms with himself, and what his life has really meant over the past years. Through the advice of friends, and by a drunken depression, Jack Duluoz(Kerouac) appears as the truly tragic figure he was near the end of his life in St. Petersburg, FL. I feel it safe to say that in this instance, art truly imitates life. I recommend this book to anyone, mostly to those who've read On The Road, and more specifically to those who have become influenced through the writings of this 20th Century legend.