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Big Sur by Jack Kerouac

Tuesday, September 27, 2011 § 0

Jack Kerouac's Big Sur: Esthetic Appreciation for Nature and the American Expres(sion)ist Text: Sea

A Book Review by 
David Detrich                                                        

Big Sur (1963) by Jack Kerouac is a novel that begins in San Francsico with the return of the narrator Jack Duluoz to City Lights Bookstore, where Lorenz Monsanto has agreed to give him the use of his cabin in Big Sur for six weeks of novel writing. The narrator writes with an informal American style of prose celebrating the San Francisco lifestyle, where he gets together with his literary friends for wine drinking. Big Sur is written with the charm of an accomplished storyteller, who describes his experiences while visiting the cabin in Big Sur. There are long descriptive passages of the rock canyons, that give the California coast a metaphysical mood with a historical sense of natural beauty, and the novel concludes with the innovative poetic text Sea, Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur. Big Sur by Jack Kerouac is a literary classic written with informal prose, that has evolved out of American modernism, and into the innovative trend of the 1960s.

Jack Duluoz begins his journey with a visit to Los Gatos, and continues down the coast past the Carmel Highlands to a canyon in Big Sur, where he is hoping to visit Lorenz Monsanto's cabin.

My work comprises one vast book like Proust's except that my remembrances are written on the run instead of afterwards in a sick bed.
                                                           Big Sur
                                                           Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac states in the preface that his novels form the Duluoz Legend, and the use of fictional names in his novels was suggested by his editors, who wanted new names for each novel. He could have called his novels autobiographical fiction, and kept the same names in each novel to form what Anaïs Nin has called the continuous novel, a longer form evolving out of real life experiences.

...he would secretly drive me to his cabin in the Big Sur woods where I would be alone and undisturbed for six weeks just chopping wood, drawing water, writing, sleeping, hiking, etc. etc. - But insted I've bounced drunk into his City Lights booshop at the height of Saturday night business, everyone recognized me (even tho I was wearing my disguise-like fisherman's hat and fishermen coat and pants waterproof)...
                                                           Big Sur
                                                           Jack Kerouac

When the narrator mentions his "disguise-like fisherman's hat" he may be making a subtle allusion to my character: the waterfall with red hair, who wears a fisherwoman's hat on her hikes along the Apple Blossom Trail. Jack Kerouac likes to play a leading role with the reader, and his insight into the American innovative novel makes Big Sur worthy of critical attention, anticipating the trend of autobiographical fiction, and even that of sound poetry, with his tribute to the ocean Sea at the end of Big Sur.

The "King of the Beatniks" is back in town buying drinks for everyone...
                                                           Big Sur
                                                           Jack Kerouac

When the narrator Duluoz mentions the "King of the Beatniks" I am reminded of Jesus Christ, who was asked by Pontius Pilate if he was the King of the Jews. "My kingdom is not of this world," Jesus said, and it is with this charge that he was sentenced to be crucified. The true spirit of freedom in the arts triumphed in the days of Jesus, and the historical winners have continued to the present with a friendly regard for the work of their fellow novelists.

A woman coming to my door and saying "I'm not going to ask you if you're Jack Duluoz because I know he wears a beard, can you tell me where I can find him, I want a real Beatnik at my annual Shindig party
                                                           Big Sur
                                                           Jack Kerouac

This witty style of dialogue has inspired my own writing with its subtle 1960s sense of humor, that makes Big Sur by Jack Kerouac a novel that gives the reader esthetic pleasure in the appreciation of the narrator's trendy characterizations.

I had sneaked into San Francisco as I say, coming 3000 miles from my home in Long Island (Northport)
                                                           Big Sur
                                                           Jack Kerouac

Several American novelists have visited Big Sur to write novels or autobiographical essays on the mountainous coast which inspires the creative spirit: Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch (1957) by Henry Miller, Big Sur (1963) by Jack Kerouac, A Confederate General from Big Sur (1964) by Richard Brautigan, and my own novel Big Sur Marvels & Wondrous Delights (2001) by David Detrich.

The face of yourself you see in the mirror with its expression of unbearable anguish so haggard and awful with sorrow you cant even cry for a thing so ugly, so lost, no connection whatever with early perfection and therefore nothing to connect with tears or anything: it's like William Seward Burroughs' "Stranger" suddenly appearing in your place in the mirror—Enough! "One fast move or I'm gone"
                                                           Big Sur
                                                           Jack Kerouac

The defacement in the mirror of Jack Duluoz creates a nightmarish experience, with the introduction of the theme of jealousy for the narrator's good looks, and his writing skills, which may have caused a malicious attack on his identity as a novelist: with the superimposition of William Burroughs on his face. America should defend human rights more noticeably, so that our writers are protected from jealous rivals.

Jack sensed that he and Cassady were to be the architects of a dawning American literary renaissance...
                                                          Subterranean Kerouac: 
                                                          The Hidden Life
                                                          of Jack Kerouac
                                                          Ellis Amburn

Big Sur by Jack Kerouac is a novel which has inspired a literary renaissance in the fiction of Big Sur, written with the precise psychological insight into characterization. The narrator Duluoz shows an appreciation for the beauty of nature, and describes his experience of being alone in a rugged west coast environment, ending the novel with the innovative text Sea, Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur, a poetic study of the concrete sounds of the ocean, which makes this novel a classic of American innovative fiction.

David Detrich lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he has just completed The Convergence of Two Narrative Lines Ascending, an ultramodern Surrealist novel written in minimal squares. This year he is working on Dream the Presence of the Circular Breast Starfish Topography, a monumental Surrealist novel written with innovative typographical design. His first novel Big Sur Marvels & Wondrous Delights (2001) is available from Amazon. He is the editor of Innovative Fiction Magazine and Surrealist Star Clustered Illuminations.

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