Big Sur by Jack Kerouac (1962)
“And in the flush of the first few days of joy I confidently tell myself (not expecting what I'll do in three weeks only) 'no more dissipation, it's time for me to quietly watch the world and even enjoy it, first in woods like these, then just calmly walk and talk among people of the world, no booze, no drugs, no binges, no bouts with beatniks and drunks and junkies and everybody, no more I ask myself the question O why is God torturing me, that's it, be a loner, travel, talk to waiters, walk around, no more self-imposed agony...it's time to think and watch and keep concentrated on the fact that after all this whole surface of the world as we know it now will be covered with the silt of a billion years in time...Yay, for this, more aloneness”
Jack Duluoz, Kerouac's alter-ego has passed 40, is tired of fans who break into his house, and he seriously needs to take a break from alcohol and drugs. So he borrows his friend Monsanto's cabin in Big Sur to spend some weeks in solitude. But the death of his beloved cat sends him on a binge. So Jack soon finds himself out and about in San Francisco and Los Gatos, but although the nights are awesome with sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, the days are spent in nervous agony and Jack's nerves are failing him.
This is the saddest Jack Kerouac I have read. The way Jack is struggling with depression and reality is getting more and more evident by the pages. He also steals his friend Cody's mistress, Billie, and they spend some mad weeks together, and Billie wants them to get married and Jack to be the father of her son, but Jack is sure that the son is the offspring of the devil. It's more the language rather than the events that makes this book so sad, I'm in love with Kerouac's style.
My reason for picking this book up now, is that in a little more than a month's time, I'll find myself in Big Sur. I'm hoping it will be as beautiful as Kerouac describes it, and I'm sure there will be some nights with too much wine as well. There's a film adaptation coming out later this year, along with an adaptation of On the Road. I will also throw in a recommendation of the album One Fast Move or I'm Gone by Jay Ferrar and Benjamin Gibbard. It will be on heavy rotation on the road from San Francisco to Big Sur!“But I remember seeing a mess of leaves suddenly go skittering in the wind and into the creek, then floating rapidly down the creek towards the sea, making me feel a nameless horror even then of 'Oh my God, we're all being swept away to sea no matter what we know or say or do”