Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Confederate General from Big Sur” as Want to Read:
A Confederate General from Big Sur
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Confederate General from Big Sur

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  2,988 ratings  ·  164 reviews
This is the story of Lee Mellon, whose great-grandfather was (or perhaps was not) a Confederate General in the Civil War. The story of a few weeks in San Francisco and Big Sur, it describes the relationship between Mellon and the narrator.
When Lee holes up at Big Sur, he writes his friend an urgent invitation: "I've got a garden that grows all year round! A 30:30
Paperback, 159 pages
Published 1968 by Grove Press (first published 1964)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Confederate General from Big Sur, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A Confederate General from Big Sur

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,988 ratings  ·  164 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Confederate General from Big Sur
Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Ian "Marvin" Graye

It was only through a Lee-of-another-color, Lee Mellon, that I found out the truth about Big Sur. Lee Mellon who is the battle flags and the drums of this book. Lee Mellon: a Confederate general in ruins.

Early in this novel our narrator and Lee Mellon visit a library. Mellon is a proud direct descendant of a famous Confederate general, and he wants to prove his claim to fame to his new friend by showing him a volume of Civil War history detailing the facts of great-grandfather Augustus Mellon’
Dec 18, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I thought maybe I could give this three stars, but then all of my other three star books would be looking at me like I did them wrong. Consider this a high two star book.

If I had read this book when I was 18 and bored as a freshman in college I would have enjoyed it more, I might have thought that something great was being produced here. Now though I don't feel like anything great is being produced, I feel like I'm being forced to sit down and listen to people I used to know talk about things
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Black Lebanese Hash Tag

Set in the Big Sur of Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac, "Confederate General" isn’t Beat, nor is it Hippy in the clichéd collective, counter-cultural sense that we’re all familiar with from the mid- to late-60’s. It’s something in between, something genuinely individualistic, something unique to the participants, whether or not millions of others would subsequently try to replicate their experience.

Having abandoned San Francisco with no job and no money, Jesse and Lee
Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
“He died on his return to New York. He died on the gangplank, just a few feet away from America. He didn't quite make it. His hat did though. It rolled off his head and down the gang-plank and landed, plop, on America. Poor devil. I heard it was his heart, but the way the Chinese dentist described the business, it could have been his teeth.”

It's a funny thing to reach the end of a short novel that has thoroughly entertained and stimulated you from first to last and realise that you have nothing
Mar 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
I have enjoyed Richard Brautigan's strange style of storytelling in the past, but it doesn't work for me in A CONFEDERATE GENERAL FROM BIG SUR. I still like the fact that he used strange metaphors and similes for his descriptions, but this novel is a mess. It reminds me of what I would do as a teenager when I came home from football or baseball practice starving. I would find whatever leftovers there were and mix them in a bowl. Sometimes the combinations didn’t work so well. Sometimes they did. ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Philippe Malzieu
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"The books of Francis Scott Fitzgerald are in my library, those of Brautigan on my night table." said Djian, a French writer.

An editor proposes in only one volume 3 novels. The occasion is beautiful to read again this brilliant writer.

Emblematic author of the beatnick period, He is the most underestimated.
Brautigan is the king of irony. His characters are splendid losers, celestial tramps. Lee Mellon claims to have a sudist general asancestor. Truth or false? It doesn't matter. Important is
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: down-n-out, owned
Maybe not five stars, but easily a solid four and a half. No plot to speak of and no clean resolution at the end, but I knew to expect that from Brautigan going in. Oh, and of course it has virtually nothing to do with Confederate generals or the Civil War, except maybe tangentially, but I knew to expect that going in as well. Brautigan, though, gotta love him--at least I do. Similar in feel to Trout Fishing in America (loosely structured tales of down-at-the-heels counterculture types), but ...more
Jacob Pickering-Esquibel
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: every one
I can read this book every day cuz it just that wonderful.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Rating 4 Alligators

I read this book twenty some years ago and it still holds up quite well. Brautigan's style and hilarious characters make for a enjoyable read, or listen (Hoopla).
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Confederate General from Big Sur is a hipster’s stuff done in the style of beatniks – a vagabond tale arrowed straight through the heart of the hobo jungle…
“The dinner we had that evening was not very good. How could it be when we were reduced to eating food that the cats would not touch? We had no money to buy anything edible and no prospects of getting any. We were just hanging on.
We had spent four or five days waiting for someone to come along and bring us food, a traveller or a friend, it
Poetic, playful, perverse, psychedelic, side splittingly hilarious and unsubtly surreal and broadly comical and many adjectives can be sewn together to express my impressment and deep love for this book
This legitimate masterpiece was written when Brautigan was just beginning. What a writer. On a page by page basis, Brautigan's brilliant debut as a novelist, A Confederate
Recipe for Big Sur Novel à la mode

1 cup Kerouac's On the Road
1 cup Miller's Big Sur and the Oranges of Heironymous Bosch
1/3 cup Kerouac's Big Sur
6 medium size buds of early 60's marijuana
1 drifter-like author
1 Neal Cassady lite
2 chicks who put out
1-2 dashes of unhinged businessman

Blend in a large bowl until soft.

Ingest one oxycodone or two valium.

Read in one sitting or until sleepy........

Not a bad book, but not completely original and not very memorable.... still, a part of the early hippie lit
Mike W
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
This may have been funny in its time. That time has passed.
Dec 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best use of weird metaphors, brilliant and silly and vulgar and nothing to do with anything. You can read it in two hours and it will make you happy and sad and think differently about alligators, motorcycle parts, hippies, and hitchhiking down highway one to Big Sur.
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The fourth Brautigan novel I have read so far. It was his first published novel but second written. It is a marvelous work; as short as are all his books; whimsical; strange; inventive and highly original. One could almost state that Brautigan was a unique writer, that he wrote like no one else, though certain aspects of his style could be compared to (say) Vonnegut or Barthelme, etc. And yet the resultant flavour of the text is wholly his own. He is one of those 'pared down' writers and his ...more
Graham P
Nov 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
"The last good time this country ever had."

Parts Walt Whitman, Boudu Saved from Drowning, and Thoreau's Walden, all of it blended in with an idiosyncratic, minimalist take on the bohemians at play before the sixties came rolling in. Brautigan is surely a unique writer, playing the farce with a destitute and a decadent brevity. The narrator, Jesse, and his pal Lee Mellon meander along the Pacific and end up staying in an old cabin in Big Sur. Reefer. Sex. Eccentric chatter. And dreams of the
Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This novel is Richard Brautigan's legacy - it's his finest, and funniest, novel. Lee Mellon (the narrator Jesse's friend) claims to have an ancestor, Augustus Mellon, who was a general in the Confederate army during the civil war. Of course, there was no such general. Lee Mellon is, for me, one of the enduring fictional, literary personages of the hippy era. There are some passages in this book that will have you laughing your a** off. Who else but a pair of stoners (or Brautigan) would come up ...more
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had a great time reading this book on a flight headed to Amsterdam, enjoying the entire story from front to back cover in about 2 hours (which was a nice break from the lengthy fantasy novels I've been reading). I felt uncommonly inspired by the simple yet poetic prose of Brautigan, as well as by the ethereal setting of his story: Big Sur; a region of California coast that I both live by and, upon occasion, visit myself. I find that I become keenly interested in stories that are written about ...more
Max Maxwell
Feb 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like weirdo avant fic
Recommended to Max by: Found it in a used bookstore; sure I'd heard of it though
This is one of the great short novels of American literature, plain and simple. (In fact, his first four novels (Confederate, Troutfishing In America, In Watermelon Sugar, and The Abortion) all fit that bill, but that's another set of reviews.) The plot, if one may be so audacious as to ascribe plot to Brautigan's narrative, centers on Jesse, a drifter who encounters a toothless, deranged man named Lee Mellon, who believes (rather strangely) that he is descended from a confederate general. ...more
Dennis Fleming
Oct 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I've not come across writers who write what appears to be autobiography (whether it is or isn't I don't know) that keeps me reading with such humor. I liked the fact that I never felt like I knew where this story was going to take me. The way the main character, Jesse, accepts these other bizarre characters' behavior kept me in the moment. The style is spare, something I appreciate. The characters are not three dimensional but in this case anything more than cardboard would have ruined the voice ...more
Stephen Witt
Jan 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I was 17 and filling out an application to an Ivy League school I put this as my favorite book.

I didn't get in.
Kent Winward
May 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Joining Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac, in lending homage to Big Sur and its quirky characters.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Hmm, this Brautigan fellow likes to turn odd phrases. The story was kind of Vonnegut/Robbins odd, but with plenty of pithy little lines that I kept thinking about. Since the story was so odd, it was probably good that it was relatively short - that worked in its favor. I'm certainly willing to try some more Brautigan.
Tom Gray
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a story that the book blurb describes as a description of the early days of the San Francisco hip culture, It is set in the late 50s and is an account of the lives of the narrator Jesse and his friend Their lives as chronicled were lived entirely in the present. They were lives in which their was little thought for teh future and little thought for consequences either for themselves or for other. These were lives in which lying was casual and often. The book ends at shore in Big Sur at ...more
Del Herman
Feb 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Had Mark Twain been part of the counterculture of the 1960's, I feel he may have written something along these lines. Something witty, absurd, dry, and something that leaves an aftertaste that is almost impossible to describe. Those were all things that permeated this novel, along with a sense of psychedelic non-reality that one could expect from a novel written about California in 1964.

The plot (if you could call it that) revolves around Lee Mellon, a strange counterculture type who believes
Feb 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
It is dangerous perhaps to revisit an author you liked when the world was young... but re-reading Richard Brautigan has been a pleasure. His was a unique voice – appearing to skate close to the edge of sentimentality, but always underpinned with something darker and more forlorn. Laughter on the lip of the void. My only surprise was discovering that Confederate General, though published first, was actually written after Trout Fishing in America...and the latter is the more satisfying novel.

May 04, 2015 rated it liked it
So, apparently this Richard Brautigan was one of the writers of the 'Beat generation' (does one call them 'members'?). I'd never heard of him, and actually bought this book - in the one bookshop in my hometown that sells books in a language other than Italian - as an alternative to the one I REALLY wanted, which was too expensive. Exactly two days later I bought that one, too.
Anyway, Beat Generation as he may be, this Brautigan has none of the arrogance of that pompous, self-assured ass, Mr. K
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A Confederate General from Big Sur by Richard Brautigan is everything that I wish Big Sur by Jack Kerouac was. Its is hilarious. It is weird. It is obnoxious. It is great.

Lee Mellon, the wielder of a toothless wonder (smile) and descendant (or not) of a Confederate General, convinces Jesse, the narrator, to make his way to Big Sur after his lover leaves him. The story itself is very simple and largely plotless. It's mostly a rambling narrative following the two men previously mentioned through
May 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: literary-novels
This book is basically a piece of junk, and only stays in print, I'm sure, because it deals loosely with some counterculture characters. It's whimsical and uninformed, like when I started writing a novel years ago about a man who finds Marcel Proust's head on the side of Route 80, without ever having read any of Proust's work. Only Brautigan finishes his novel and is lauded. This is the story of a couple of jerk-offs in San Francisco in the 60s, doing nothing but killing frogs. It's Kerouac ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Young Adam
  • You Can't Catch Death
  • Princess Bari
  • Let Us Compare Mythologies
  • Harvest Home
  • Breakfast with the Borgias
  • The Sea is My Brother
  • Getting Even
  • Leonard and Hungry Paul
  • The 42nd Parallel (U.S.A., #1)
  • Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
  • Ness
  • Queer
  • The H.P. Lovecraft Omnibus 1: At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels of Terror
  • The End Is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments, from the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses
  • The Cormorant
  • Prison Pit, Vol. 1
  • Prison Pit, Vol. 2
See similar books…
Richard Brautigan was an American novelist, poet, and short-story writer. Born in Tacoma, Washington, he moved to San Francisco in the 1950s and began publishing poetry in 1957. He started writing novels in 1961 and is probably best known for his early work Trout Fishing in America. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1984.

“This morning I saw a coyote walking through the sagebrush right at the very edge of the ocean ― next stop China. The coyote was acting like he was in New Mexico or Wyoming, except that there were whales passing below. That’s what this country does for you. Come down to Big Sur and let your soul have some room to get outside its marrow.” 19 likes
“The bees in my stomach are dead and getting used to it.” 18 likes
More quotes…