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Big Sur

(Duluoz Legend)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  31,239 ratings  ·  1,171 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 syntactic 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 1992 by Penguin Books (first published September 11th 1962)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  31,239 ratings  ·  1,171 reviews

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Nov 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Leile Brittan
May 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Elyse  Walters
Oct 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
When I was in Saint Petersburg, Florida this past spring...( I'm going for a week again this coming December)...I noticed that in every book store I visited...Jack Kerouac's books were on display. He died in Saint Petersburg in 1969....yet his presence is still felt today in 2106 in Saint Pete.

So, when I discovered "Big Sur", was a $1.99 Kindle special recently --( having not read it) --I bought it. The writing is intimate from the start.

Now -- since reading "Big Sur", I want to rent the movie
Dave Schaafsma
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Forgive me for this ramble in the kinda sorta manner of. . .

ohmygodno I did not want to read this book right now, I really did not. I am in the middle of reading the later books of the recently departed Philip Roth, unflinchingly facing decay and death, and I had to drive a few hours in a car and I am about to head west On The Road soon and so I wanted to set myself up not with a framework of aging but a sense of eternal youth of joie de vivre of zest for life and go west young man, I was lookin
Steven Godin
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My fourth Kerouac, and the best I have read of him so far. But unlike the others where he simply goes a wandering from one place to the next, Big Sur mostly takes place in, yes that's right, Big Sur, California. Damn, what I'd give to be there now. All that sun. I'm due a much needed break.

Jack Duluoz (the fictional Kerouac) who is suffering with mental and physical exhaustion as a result of not being able to cope with a life in the public eye seeks comfort in a secluded cabin. There he drinks,
Mar 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jeff Mirabilis
Jan 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
I like who I am when I read Kerouac, I love all the trees that go by on this train I’m on right now and I love all the sky that’s up above and the sun, its wide rays across all these fields and then the sun when it goes all sharp and pricks through the trees – And right now I’m forgiving everyone I’ve ever hated or been sore with because what is it they are all as close to being Buddha as you are? – The light continues to make me happy the whole journey, I’m feeling pleased and the only other pe ...more
Sep 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
Nov 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 60s-culture
Sometimes I live in the country.

I thought that I was going to be in for a treat, but I found that I disliked this book. Some say that this book represented his downfall, but I don’t know why since he lived another 7 years and got married two more times. Was this his last book? He was drinking too much, and then for a week, the last chapter of this book, he was drinking and not eating. His depression was deep and his mind, rambling, and it actually gave me a headache. But I was finished with the
Jon Nakapalau
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A world weary Kerouac seeks a physical and spiritual retreat...I so wish he would have found both and stayed with us a little longer.
Joel Lacivita
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book about the demons of Jack Kerouac. If the reader doesn’t know anything about Kerouac and/or had never read any of this books, this novel will not have the same meaning. Having personally read some of his books, especially the Dharma Bums, If found this book to very interesting, and like nothing else I had read. It’s basically about Jack, in 1960, trying to deal with his fame being known as the most famous beatnik. As we know now, he really looked at himself as more of an author than ...more
Rebecca Hillebrand
Jul 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, the-west, cool
No one, and I mean no one, writes alcoholic horror better than Jack. This book is powerful for those of us who have fought the demon. Jack, of course, succumbed to it and this savagely beautiful work was simply a precursor.
Oct 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: finished-in-2020
Reading this, I can't help but think how much I like Jack Kerouac the person so much more than Jack Kerouac the writer. I know he didn't have a recording device, but it reads like the book is a recorded transcript of his unedited thoughts. Whatever comes out. Making more of a Big Sur Diary than a Big Sur novel.

As you read, you see it's later in his career. He references the 10 "novels" he's already written, that he is "famous," that too many people are hectoring him and lining up to be beatnik w
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jack-kerouac
The sea seems to yell to me GO TO YOUR DESIRE DON'T HANG AROUND HERE -- For after all the sea must be like God, God isn't asking us to mope and suffer and sit by the sea in the cold at midnight for the sake of writing down useless sounds, he gave us the tools of self reliance after all to make it straight thru bad life mortality towards Paradise maybe I hope... But some miserables like me don't even know it, when it comes to us we're amazed -- Ah, life is a gate, a way, a path to Paradise anyway ...more
Jonathan LaPoma
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jack Kerouac was already one of my favorite authors before I started on Big Sur, but now he's even higher up my list. I'd fallen in love with his prose in The Dharma Bums and On The Road, but the writing in Big Sur is on another level. I'm aware that Kerouac is a controversial author and is often criticized for his exuberant naiveté, but I've always found something pure, beautiful, and--more importantly--useful in his ideals, no matter how romantic or ill-advised. But here, those ideals are a li ...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Aug 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 spe ...more
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Kerouac struggles with the knowledge that he is trash as a human, and also trash as a writer.

He tries to get away to one of the most gorgeous locations in North America, but he trashes it up with his trashy tag-along acquaintances.

End of the book includes grotesque, obscene hallucinations, child abuse, and an absolutely terrible poem.

I enjoyed the first 30-40%, because it looked like the author was finding himself in nature, becoming obsessed with the sea and trying to learn its crashy swishy la
Aug 18, 2020 rated it liked it
Big Sur-prise !!! What a bad pun !! I guess COVID isolation makes one come with these.

I have often read about journeys on the US West coast and to the Big Sur by others. I almost attempted it once but took a different route driving to Vegas from San Francisco.

Kerouac’s travelogues had sounded legendary with quite a few of my friends referring in our book conversations. This was a wonderful surprise though I think I was expecting it. The sentences are as long as possibly the journeys you might
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Always a joy to pick up Kerouac after however many years, and to have it hit you bam in the kundalini again just like he always did - and am also grateful to have left Big Sur so late - so it didn't immediately sour the mad joy of his earlier novels, this being somewhat of a hangover novel, albeit a beautiful tormented hangover. Drunk old Kerouac here then, he's seriously all over the place, a mess, sick of the Beats 'The circle's closed in on the old heroes of the night' and suffering what he c ...more
Nov 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The first time I read this I thought I would also have a three week bender when my cat died. But now I've quit drinking instead I decided to re-read this and see Kerouac's grief about loosing his cat. This time the horror of the bender didn't seem as terrifying as the awfulness of the people he ended up on it with. It really was a desperate look at how awful alcoholism is. It makes it extra sad that he could articulate that so clearly, and yet still die from it a few years later. I think it safe ...more
Simon Robs
Oct 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's all fun and games till it ain't, this is the ain't part, the "Duluoz" crack-up novel installment set pinballing from San Francisco to Big Sur back an forth and peopled by the usual suspects of Beat Gen. notables, but really it's a mostly dyad between Dulouz, the Big Sur location and the sea in particular, that mix of devils brew, a tempest that threatens his will to go on. Booze will kill you eventually and it did for Kerouac, but not before he'd amassed a respectable oeuvre of personal nov ...more
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
“An awful realization that I have been fooling myself all my life thinking there was a next thing to do to keep the show going and actually I'm just a sick clown and so is everybody else.”

I have been avoiding writing this review for a long time. Jack Kerouac is an author I will always hold dear; his free spirit, his unquenched thirst for life and adventure, along with his unique writing style set him apart from any other author I’ve come across.

Kerouac was born on March 12, 1922 in Lowell, Mass
Sep 05, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: yanks, read-in-2012
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
Feb 02, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: us, beat-generation
I really wanted to give it two stars out of some residual reverence for Kerouac I still have. But no. Just no. This is, to me, Kerouac at his worst; his novels usually are much more plot- and character-driven, and this book demonstrates how crucial these two things are to his prose. In Big Sur, he turns his mirror on himself, and boy, what a woeful spectacle this is. Ignore for your own good, unless you are a relentless completist.
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Very looking forward to 1 2 Jun 18, 2020 02:07AM  
Play Book Tag: Big Sur by Jack Kerouac - 3 stars 1 14 Jun 03, 2017 10:23AM  
The Perks Of Bein...: Is Big Sur Kerouac's greatest novel? 1 33 May 19, 2013 04:09PM  
Books, Blogs, Aut...: Keroauc's Big Sur: "Woe is me, I'm successful." 1 10 May 18, 2013 05:45PM  
The Perks Of Bein...: Keroauc's Big Sur: "Woe is me, I'm successful?" 1 17 May 18, 2013 02:24PM  
"Big Sur" film premieres at Sundance 2 37 May 16, 2013 12:51PM  

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Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac on March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts. Jack Kerouac's writing career began in the 1940s, but didn't meet with commercial success until 1957, when On the Road was published. The book became an American classic that defined the Beat Generation. Kerouac died on October 21, 1969, from an abdominal hemorrhage, at age 47.


Other books in the series

Duluoz Legend (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings
  • Visions of Gerard
  • Dr. Sax
  • The Town and the City
  • Maggie Cassidy
  • Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education, 1935-46
  • On the Road
  • Visions of Cody
  • The Subterraneans
  • Tristessa

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