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Big Sur Paperback – January, 1990

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Paperback, January, 1990
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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies (January 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0070342407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0070342408
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,544,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

A sad tale, but a valuable one - and, as always with Kerouac, a beautifully written one as well.
Art Turner
Big Sur is one of the greatest American novels of the 20th Century and remains Jack Kerouac's most vibrant literary legacy.
Jeffrey Ellis
Just as Kerouac wrote the book in a very short period time, I read the book in a very short period.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 102 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Ellis on September 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Big Sur is one of the most harrowing books ever written about alcoholism, mental illness, and fame. The demons that Jack Kerouac describes in this book will be nothing new to people who have read the previous novels in his autobiographical Dulouz Saga. Throughout all of his work, Kerouac was painfully honest about his problems with alcohol, his tendency towards manic depression and paranoia, and his inability to find joy or hope in anything for too long of a time. However, in Big Sur, one thing has changed. Kerouac's surrogate Jack Dulouz is now a famous writer -- an icon to young, wanna-be beatniks everywhere. Whereas previously Dulouz's breakdowns were, at least, only seen by his friends, he now finds his problems observed, it seems, by the entire world. Reeling from the sudden success of his novel "Road" (which, of course, is Kerouac's On the Road), Dulouz accepts an invitation to spend a few months at a cabin in Big Sur where he can get away from his new admirers (who, in a few bitingly humorous passages, are described as tracking him down at his mother's house, expecting to find a young hellion and becoming angered when they find the actual middle-aged, rather conservative Dulouz). Alone, Dulouz hopes to commune with nature but instead, he finds the crashing of the nearby surf to be oppressive and even imagines it as a voice condemning him for his many sins. As a result, Dulouz descends further and further into alcoholism and insanity before finally hitchhiking to a nearby town where he ends up romantically entangled with a truly horrific woman and coming face-to-face with his future fate if he doesn't change his ways. (Sadly, the fate that Dulouz tries to escape in this book would be the fate that would eventually claim Kerouac in reality.Read more ›
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87 of 90 people found the following review helpful By hugh riminton on January 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
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.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By karl b. on June 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
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 Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 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.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By B. Morse on June 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Kerouac's Big Sur, written after his mega-success with On The Road, could be argued as a very dark, depressing read. On the contrary, I found it very revealing about one of my favorite writers, and his frame of mind at the time.

Given the opportunity to seclude himself from his friends, fame, and drinking to excess in the cabin of a friend, Kerouac sinks into a sort of paranoia and anxiety, and finally gives in to his impulse to return to 'civilization'....and then proceeds to invite a group back to the cabin, leading him to realize that his most recent affair was with a girl he didn't actually love.

The most fascinating aspect of this novel, to me, is not the horrific volume of drinking Kerouac does at this stage of his life, but in the fact that though he was put off by his fame, and being dubbed 'the King of the Beats', and at being hounded by ardent fans who wanted to merely be in his presence...he couldn't stand the isolation.

Also of interest to me was the 'honesty' he put into his feelings about the actions of his fans...they say 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery', but Kerouac seemed to think just the opposite...and all but told his fans/readers to 'get a life' in several passages of the book. Those in his industry, who rely so heavily on fan-support rarely ever are so vocal about their distaste for those same fans, without a severely negative impact on their sales.

An excellent read, though if you are looking for 'uplifting', spiritually awakening wisdom from the 'king of the beats', look elsewhere. This book is a downward spiral into the darker recesses of Kerouac's alcohol-induced delirium.
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