from my bookshelf: big sur by jack kerouac


big sur tracks jack duluoz’s (jack kerouac in alter ego form) three treks to his friend’s cabin in bixby canyon, big sur, california. jack stays in the cabin, alone at first, to get away and unwind. initially, jack finds solace; he makes friends with the birds and feels rejuvinated by escaping normal life. however, big sur frequently references jack’s status as a well-known beatnick author; he struggles with his public image versus how he sees himself.  jack ropes his friends in to joining him on road trips to the cabin, hoping to initiate memorable adventures. the trips are insufficient to cloak jack’s reality: he is a depressed alcoholic who feels unworthy and incapable of love. the end of the book includes “Sea: Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur,” kerouac’s poem–so significant it necessitates its own post.


“…Like working to fix that new stream in the creek to flow through the convenient deep new waterhole near the wood platform on the bank, and losing myself in this like a kid playing, it’s the little things that count (clichés are truisms and all truisms are true)…”

“…Men say ‘We are men, we pull out tree stumps, we make paper bags, we think wise thoughts, we make lunch, we look around, we make a great effort to realize everything is the same’…”

“…There’s the raccoon in his fog, there the man to his fireside, and both are lonesome for God…”

“…Of course he cant know since I didnt tell him and hardly wanta tell it now, that my relationship with my cat and the other previous cats has always been a little dotty: some kind of psychological identification of the cats with my dead brother Gerard who’d taught me to love cats when I was 3 and 4 and we used to lie on the floor on our bellies and watch them lap up milk…”

“…And the sadness of it all is that the world hasnt any chance to produce say a writer whose life could really touch all this life in every detail like you always say…”

“…We all agree it’s too big to keep up with, that we’re surrounded by life, that we’ll never understand it, so we center it all in by swigging Scotch from the bottle and when it’s empty I run out of the car and buy another one, period.”

“So we drive back to town and go to the mad boardinghouse to drink some more and I pass out dead drunk on the floor as usual in that house, waking up in the morning groaning far from my clean cot on the porch in Big Sur–No bluejays yakking for me to wake up any more, no gurgling creek, I’m back in the grooky city and I’m trapped.”

“…He just sorta wants to dig everything and just watch and enjoy and say nothing particular about it…”

“…it’s just amazing how inside our own souls we can lift out so much strength I think it would be enough strength to move mountains at that, to lift our boots up again and go clomping along happy out of nothing but the good source power in our own bones…”

“…Pat and I are in a serious talkative mood and I feel that lonely shiver in my chest which always warns me: you actually love people and you’re glad Pat is here.”

“Strange sad desultory the way families and people sorta scatter around a beach and look vaguely at the sea, all disorganized and picnic sad…”

“Because a new love affair always gives hope, the irrational mortal loneliness is always crowned, that thing I saw (that horror of snake emptiness) when I took the deep iodine deathbreath on the Big Sur beach is now justified and hosannah’d and raised up like a sacred urn to Heaven in the mere fact of the taking off of clothes and clashing wits and bodies in the inexpressibly nervously sad delight of love…”

“…if I dont write what actually I see happening in this unhappy globe which is rounded by the contours of my deathskull I think I’ll have been sent on earth by poor God for nothing…”