Big Sur
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Big Sur (Duluoz Legend)

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3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  15,308 ratings  ·  554 reviews
"Each book by Jack Kerouac is unique, a telepathic diamond. With prose set in the middle of his mind, he reveals consciousness itself in all its syntatic elaboration, detailing the luminous emptiness of his own paranoiac confusion. Such rich natural writing is nonpareil in later half XX century, a synthesis of Proust, Céline, Thomas Wolfe, Hemingway, Genet, Thelonius Monk,...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 1st 1992 by Penguin Books (NYC) (first published 1962)
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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
7th out of 145 books — 108 voters
On the Road by Jack KerouacThe Dharma Bums by Jack KerouacBig Sur by Jack KerouacThe Subterraneans by Jack KerouacOn the Road by Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac's Best
3rd out of 19 books — 69 voters


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Josh
Kerouac is a paradox. He's simultaneously over-rated and under-rated. His worst books (particularly On the Road) are iconic and uncritically adored by teenagers and hippy-dippy morons, while his best works are overlooked.

Big Sur ranks among his best. It's Kerouac at his lowest, having been devoured by fame and digested by the vast chasm that lies between the saint he's imagined to be and the bitter, depressed, exiled, alcoholic that he really is.

Kerouac is astoundingly frank in describing his de...more
Leile Brittan
Kerouac's last stand, for all intents and purposes. The Beat Legend is in top form here, as he describes as best as we could ask him to the sickness and insanity that plagued his final years, shortly after the publication of On the Road. We watch in horror and sometimes sick fascination as his mind and body deteriorate under the pressures of the bottle, the sudden fame, and the sadness of existence which took his life just a few years after the novel's publication. I couldn't help but feel guilt...more
Caris
Revisiting a beloved author can be terrifying. It’s been a full ten years since I first discovered Kerouac. A lot can change in a decade.

A few years back, my girlfriend and I went on a road trip. We both wanted to see San Francisco for the first time. It was all great fun. On the way up, we stopped in Big Sur for baked goods and coffee at a small hippyish establishment. I was struck by the beauty of the place and realized that it was somewhere I’d like to spend some time.

A couple of years after...more
Jeff Mirabilis
I think this is Kerouac's most honest work. On the Road is awesome and I love it's exuberance for life and experience, but it's ultimately a book of youth- all go go go without a thought or consideration of others or consequences. that's fine when you're 25, 26, 27... but as I've gotten older, I've come to regard On the Road as somewhat "blind" exuberance... and Big Sur is the cliff that Kerouac jumps right off full speed with his eyes open. Big Sur is a crack-up book and it shows how Kerouac lo...more
Mark
Jan 09, 2014 Mark rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
Should you read this book? Well, to quote Jack Kerouac himself, “I don't know, I don't care, and it doesn't make any difference."

What inspired me to read Big Sur, which I somehow skipped in all earlier Kerouac stints, was Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar's 2009 LP: One Fast Move Or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur. If you've not heard about the album, its genesis was Kerouac’s nephew Jim Sampas requesting songwriter Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt) to compose some songs based on the Big Sur text for the...more
Sonja
Jack Kerouac is not for everyone. "It's not writing, it's typing." said Truman Capote. I have read a good amount of Kerouac and his contemporaries' works. Usually I would rank him 3 to 4 stars.

Big Sur is different. The book stays with me. It's bittersweet. It follows the same character line-up, the people in Kerouac's novel, are people from his real life, Neal Cassady, Michael McClure, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, etc. It is very helpful to know which characters refer to specific people.
The focus is...more
Richard
I read this book today to celebrate Ti Jean's eighty-ninth birthday and to say "thank you" to the first guy who really inspired me to write.

"Big Sur" is a roman a clef, an all-too-true story of a man haunted by the wrong kind of fame. Our tale opens in 1960. "On the Road" has hit disenfranchised post-war American youth like a tsunami of lava and all of a sudden newspaper reporters and misguided opportunists want to pigeonhole its author, our hero, as a long-haired twenty-year old king beatnik. B...more
Rebecca Matson
Big Sur is the second Jack Kerouac work that I've committed myself to reading. The first was On The Road, which I left about a third of the way in. I was unable to connect to it at the time. I feel that reading Big Sur at this specific time in my life was an excellent choice being that many of the topics Kerouac touches on in this work are the same as those I've been mentally wrestling with in the past several months, i.e. human interconnectedness, role of love in the chaos of life, relationship...more
Rob
Jul 15, 2009 Rob rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: reread
the delerium tremens after the party - bleak, despairing, claustrophobic, and frightening, the yin to "on the road"'s yang. this is the aesthetic line in the sand where the lantern-jawed, photogenic, exultant kerouac of the 40s and 50s meets the boozy reactionary mama's boy shut-in of the 60s.

in short, the other side of the coin.
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Aug 28, 2008 Joshua Nomen-Mutatio rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: my 15 year old self
My ratings for several books are based on how I felt about them when I read them. Several books that I loved/"really liked" I don't feel similarly about any longer, to put as simply and as fairly as possible. Kerouac is probably a perfect example of this. I loved reading about the melancholy psychological and geographical wanderings of Mr. Kerouac and his friends when I was 15 years old. It spoke to me in that way that people will describe books like On The Road and Catcher in the Rye as speaki...more
Tamarasoo
ok i still have a few pages left of jack's drunken manic breakdown, but i have to say that i am just not impressed with kerouac, at least not based on what i've read. i read on the road years ago, and all i really remember is that i wasn't significantly impressed with it, and i couldn't get past his misogyny. And now, 20 years later, I feel the same way. I respect kerouac for what he was at the time, the new kind of literature he helped create, the irreverence for convention, the love of art and...more
Nathan
Jan 24, 2008 Nathan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: enthusiastic bathers
This is Jack Kerouac's novel where he was basically catatonic and spending his time drinking in the bathtub. But I still liked this, although I don't remember it very well. It also got me into the habit of reading in the bathtub, (he reads a lot in the bathtub in the novel itself, when he isn't drinking) which is something I still do from time to time. No, I'm not afraid of dropping the book in the water. I'm willing to take that chance.
Rand
Mar 21, 2014 Rand marked it as to-read
Just as I never made it to Point Reyes or Big Sur during my time in Cali, i somehow I never finished reading this book during my teen Beat phase. Or maybe I did go there and had also finished reading this book? Fuck if I know.

Funny how the page count is not as high as I recall. Maybe I was afraid of the lack of paragraph breaks? Maybe a raccoon stole my glasses?

Anyhoo, Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar have a new music thing which lifts words from this book.
Jonathon
So far, too flowery/romancticy language (the sea can't talk to you asshole, it's water; put down the bottle...). What a drunk pussy...Whining about bats getting stuck in his hair? Jesus, be a man for Chrissake... (never mind that moth that made me scream like a little girl last night when I tried to swat it out of my bedroom)...

I hope this is a story of a 40 year old man-child coming to age and becoming a man at 40. That is what I really want...Maybe Kerouac isn't drinking enough? I cant tell if...more
Josh Woods
Big Sur may be Kerouac's most intrusive work. As "autobiographical" as his other works may be, Big Sur gives the reader a glimpse into the darkest recesses of Kerouac's mind. His expression of paranoia, depression, and the wrecking effects of alcohol abuse are among his most insightful. His ever present consciousness combined with his crippling Catholic guilt and irrepressible delirium tremens portray the hopeless entrapment he feels as his mind is swallowed up by alcohol and the 'madness' that...more
Kathy
Well, this book starts off quite interestingly, with Kerouac apparently aiming to write his own version of Henry David Thoreau's Walden. Quite intriguing, I thought. He is also funny and sardonic about the success of On the Road and the experience of becoming a cult figure among teenagers when he was actually approaching forty! However, at some point not too far into this book, he lapses back into his On the Road persona, interspersing accounts of car journeys with accounts of drinking bouts and...more
Liam O'brien
Jun 11, 2012 Liam O'brien rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Alcoholics and/or writers
Recommended to Liam by: My dad
Christ jesus, Jack Kerouac. You made me sit on an overturned newspaper box on the corner of 14th and 8th at 10:30 PM on a Sunday night and race to finish your book before my eyes, unglasses'd, lost their focus. It's not writing. Nor is it typing. Instead, Big Sur is the hangover to On The Road's glorious golden binge. In it, Jack Duluoz is stuck in an endless cycle of slugging down cheap wine and drifting from party to adventure to mistake in San Francisco. He achieves a kind of peaceful salvati...more
Karen
The most harrowing account of alooholism I have ever read. As a recovering alcoholic myself, I found I could relate to his story, as I can also to Kerouac's life. This was a well written book, (some of his quite frankly are not). As he descended into alcoholism he could no longer write with any real coherence, and became an obnoxious fool who was no longer taken seriously anywhere, and was no longer wanted anywhere, not even in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. The kind hearted and softspok...more
Adam
Jul 07, 2007 Adam rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: someone who thinks the end game of being a selfish boozehound doesn't suck.
I've not previously read any Jack Kerouac, so I understand starting at this book (one that finds him toward the end of his life, chased by groupies and in full alcoholic bloom) may have been a poor choice. That said, I ultimately found myself shifting between seeing the man as the talented innovator of language and observation he is heralded as and a boob with too much free time and lots of wasted talent.

I began with the average reaction to his style. I imagined an editor taming it down and mak...more
Aaron
I was mad at myself for giving this a try. I had read both "On the Choad" and "Dharma Bums." Both books were an exquisite example of the style over substance phenomenon. Youths exclaiming that they really...wholly...totally experienced something new and fulfilling that those crappy oldies just wouldn't understand. while I probably wouldn't enjoy an evening with your average American family of the 50's (I'm imagining rampant racism and a good dose of casual sexism thrown around the dinner table)...more
Jodi
Big Sur is a gem plain and simple. Anyone familiar with Kerouac's style will sink into the friendly embrace of his stream-of-consciousness style, while at the same time be stunned by it's blunt honesty. This is Kerouac at his sincerest and most human. In this book, we encounter Jack Kerouac reflecting on his success from On the Road, and desperate for an escape from the lifestyle that he's created for himself. Unwittingly, Kerouac provides his readers precisely what he himself is seeking: an esc...more
Angela
Grabbed Big Sur after avoiding it for sometime. Grabbed Big Sur as I walked out the door for my third solo trip to Big Sur. Because I had had enough. Enough of everything. As I said to someone on my way out, "I just need to not talk to anybody for a little bit."

So I grabbed Big Sur, not knowing exactly what it was about.

I bombed the curves of Big Sur, passing people I shouldn't have passed.

Got to my campsite, and set up camp. After people told me I shouldn't, no, I *couldn't* camp alone. I'm a...more
Charles
Reread this for the first time in 12 years, and I'm tempted to rate it 5 stars. The runaway prose is toned down, even controlled, yet still beautifully descriptive. Emotions, scenery, conversations, memories, dreams are laid out in a manner that seems more careful to me than other JK books. Nothing is held back--indeed, this book is utterly, brutally, even uncomfortably honest--but somehow it seems (dare I say it) edited down to an essence that hints at Hemingway just as much as Proust (both of...more
Nightfly
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Louise


The most startling thing, really, about Kerouac, is his way of being spiritually awake without an ounce of religious certainty. It's a general spatial curiosity that is possessed by all the Beats, and I just think how brave do you have to be to admit that you aren't sure? That's essentially what I see 'Big Sur' as being about -- it's Kerouac showing that really, he isn't sure about much. How does one cope with this combination of being so curious about the world and admitting that what's known...more
Christopher
Much of Kerouac's work has a preoccupation with death. Even at his most joyous zenith, there is always that shrouded stranger chasing young hipsters and dharma bums from place to place.



But in Big Sur the preoccupation becomes a mad man's obsession. Jack Dulouz (Kerouac's Surian alterego) ventures from country to city, from city to country, and back and forth a million times; and while the setting changes, he finds himself consistently heartbroken over the death of things--ottters, his youth, his...more
Lostinanovel
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Matt Hobson
Big Sur is my third leap into Kerouac's work, sparked by the spellbounding thump I received from the first two--On The Road and The Dharma Bums. Seemingly on purpose, these three books follow the Beat King's journey into night which, arguably, ultimately led to his early demise.

Where On the Road finds Jack unbelievably excitable

and Dharma Bums as a slow meditative Boddhisatva,

Big Sur finds fictionalized Jack Duluoz as a man beaten down by the struggle between fast and slow, society and isolation...more
Jeff
I really enjoyed Kerouac’s book On the Road, this one not so much at all. This book came after The Dharma Bums which I haven’t got to yet and won’t now. By this time he’s famous and has made enough to money to expand on his anything goes lifestyle.

On the Road had an innocent of fun and excitement that made me enjoy his crazy journeys but by the time this book was released Kerouac was deep in the throes of alcoholism and depression. So bad in fact it just really gets old listening to him lament a...more
Olivia
I admit to falling victim to the hype around the documentary and the soundtrack done by Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard. I realise this is all a huge marketing ploy, but I fell for it - and am happy to keep falling for such things, when they push me to reading books I've always meant to read. I hadn't really meant to read this book, but something by Kerouac, and was happy to have read this one.

I would have given it 3.5 stars if I had half-stars, but "liked it" sums up this book pretty well. I am real...more
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  • The First Third
  • Go
  • Off the Road: My Years with Cassady, Kerouac, and Ginsberg
  • Jack Kerouac: Angel-Headed Hipster
  • The Yage Letters
  • Kaddish and Other Poems
  • Kerouac: A Biography
  • Memoirs of a Beatnik
  • Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir
  • Notes of a Dirty Old Man
  • A Coney Island of the Mind
  • Women of the Beat Generation: The Writers, Artists and Muses at the Heart of a Revolution
  • Why Kerouac Matters: The Lessons of On the Road (They're Not What You Think)
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Jack Kerouac was an American novelist, writer, poet, and artist. He is perhaps the best known of a group of writers and friends who came to be known as the Beat Generation, a term he himself created.

Kerouac's work was popular, but received little critical acclaim during his lifetime. Today, he is considered an important and influential writer who inspired others, including Tom Robbins, Lester Bang...more
More about Jack Kerouac...
On the Road The Dharma Bums The Subterraneans Desolation Angels On the Road: The Original Scroll

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“It always makes me proud to love the world somehow- hate's so easy compared.” 407 likes
“On soft Spring nights I'll stand in the yard under the stars - Something good will come out of all things yet - And it will be golden and eternal just like that - There's no need to say another word.” 331 likes
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