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Authors: Jack Kerouac

Big Sur



Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922, the youngest of three children in a Franco-American family. He attended local Catholic and public schools and won a football scholarship to Columbia University in New York City, where he first met Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. He quit school in his sophomore year after a dispute with his football coach, and joined the Merchant Marine, beginning the restless wanderings that were to continue for the greater part of his life. His first novel,
The Town and the City
, appeared in 1950, but it was
On the Road
, first published in 1957 and memorializing his adventures with Neal Cassady, that epitomized to the world what became known as “the Beat generation” and made Kerouac one of the most controversial and best-known writers of his time. Publication of his many other books followed, among them
The Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans
, and
Big Sur.
Kerouac considered them all to be part of
The Duluoz Legend.
“In my old age,” he wrote, “I intend to collect all my work and reinsert my pantheon of uniform names, leave the long shelf full of books there, and die happy.” He died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969, at the age of forty-seven.


The Town and the City

The Scripture of the Golden Eternity

Some of the Dharma

Old Angel Midnight

Good Blonde and Others

Pull My Daisy

Trip Trap


The Portable Jack Kerouac

Selected Letters: 1940–1956

Selected Letters: 1957–1969

Atop an Underwood

Orpheus Emerged



Mexico City Blues

Scattered Poems

Pomes All Sizes

Heaven and Other Poems

Book of Blues

Book of Haikus



Visions of Gerard

Doctor Sax

Maggie Cassidy

Vanity of Duluoz

On the Road

Visions of Cody

The Subterraneans


Lonesome Traveller

Desolation Angels

The Dharma Bums

Book of Dreams

Big Sur

Satori in Paris

Big Sur




Published by the Penguin Group

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Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England


First published in the United States of America by Farrar Straus & Giroux 1962

Published in Penguin Books 1992


Copyright © Jack Kerouac, 1962

All rights reserved



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



Kerouac, Jack, 1922–1969.

Big Sur.

I. Title.

PS3521.E735B5 1981

813′.54 81–8279

ISBN 978-1-101-54881-3


Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

The scanning, uploading and distribution of this look via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

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. Because of the objections of my early publishers I was not allowed to use the same personae names in each work.
On the Road, The Subterraneans, The Dharma Bums, Doctor Sax, Maggie Cassidy, Tristessa, Desolation Angels, Visions of Cody
and the others including this book
Big Sur
are just chapters in the whole work which I call
The Duluoz Legend.
In my old age I intend to collect all my work and re-insert my pantheon of uniform names, leave the long shelf full of books there, and die happy. The whole thing forms one enormous comedy, seen through the eyes of poor Ti Jean (me), otherwise known as Jack Duluoz, the world of raging action and folly and also of gentle sweetness seen through the keyhole of his eye.




About the Author


Title Page












































Jack Kerouac was the handsome high school football star of Lowell, Massachusetts, who scored a winning touchdown and caught the attention of Lou Little, Columbia's famous football coach, who offered him a college scholarship.

Kerouac came from a working-class French Canadian family—his father was a printer—and the trip from Lowell to Morningside Heights was epochal. Suddenly the all-American boy, who quickly had fallen out of favor with Little, was sitting in the West End Bar opposite fellow Columbian Allen Ginsberg, not long out of New Jersey, and the two, joined by William Burroughs, a little older and out of St. Louis via Harvard, posed in the same photograph—“acting,” as Ginsberg put it, “as if we were International Debauchés as in Gide.”

Enter Neal Cassady, the legendary driver, Ginsberg's fabled “cocksman and Adonis of Denver,” who blew into New York with his girlfriend Luanne and a fired-up determination to learn all about writing from Allen, Jack, and Bill, in return for which he'd tell them all about his life in the West, and the Beat Generation was ready to roll. In fact, Kerouac wrote
On the Road
about the first years after Neal showed up, but it took seven more years to get it published, and those were the years that saw the writer, with a thickening knapsack of manuscripts, as the true literary nomad of his day. Then, when
On the Road
came out in 1957 and made him famous, the knapsack was unloaded and all the books published helter-skelter.

, maybe Kerouac's sly homage to
Bonjour Tristesse
(which had made Françoise Sagan a star overnight in 1955), is about his love affair with a Mexico City prostitute, and came out as an Avon paperback original.
Visions of Cody
is a second take on the hero of
On the Road
, this time incorporating tape-recorded conversations between Jack and Neal (a decade or more in advance of the technique à la Warhol and “oral biography”).

Big Sur
we have the plaintive but magnificent aftermath: the “King of the Beatniks” going across the country in a Pullman sleeper for one more round with the boys and girls before retirement to his study, bottle, and typewriter, and then, in 1969, of a massive abdominal hemorrhage brought on by drink, death. He was forty-seven.

Jack Kerouac was the American hero in looks and deeds who dared to have a series of long, tender nervous breakdowns in the prose of his dozen or so books. His work at its best brought something of the luminous pleasures of the French Impressionists into American writing, and something too of the brooding syntactic circuitry of Proust. Above all, he was a tender writer. It would be hard to find a mean-spirited word about anybody in all his writing.



a sad windblown “Kathleen” on the bells in the skid row slums as I wake up all woebegone and goopy, groaning from another drinking bout and groaning most of all because I'd ruined my “secret return” to San Francisco by getting silly drunk while hiding in the alleys with bums and then marching forth into North Beach to see everybody altho Lorenz Monsanto and I'd exchanged huge letters outlining how I would sneak in quietly, call him on the phone using a code name like Adam Yulch or Lalagy Pulvertaft (also writers) and then 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 instead I've bounced drunk into his City Lights bookshop 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) and 't'all ends up a roaring drunk in all the famous bars the bloody “King of the Beatniks” is back in town buying drinks for everyone—Two days of that, including Sunday the day Lorenzo is supposed to pick me up at my “secret” skid row hotel (the Mars on 4th and Howard) but when he calls for me there's no answer, he has the clerk open the door and what does he see but me out on the floor among bottles, Ben Fagan stretched out partly beneath the bed, and Robert Browning the beatnik painter out on the bed, snoring—So says to himself “I'll pick him up next weekend, I guess he wants to drink for a week in the city (like he always does, I guess)” so off he drives to his Big Sur cabin without me thinking he's doing the right thing but my God when I wake up, and Ben and Browning are gone, they've somehow dumped me on the bed, and I hear “I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen” being bellroped so sad in the fog winds out there that blow across the rooftops of eerie old hangover Frisco, wow, I've hit the end of the trail and cant even drag my body any more even to a refuge in the woods let alone stay upright in the city a minute—It's the first trip I've taken away from home (my mother's house) since the publication of “Road” the book that “made me famous” and in fact so much so I've been driven mad for three years by endless telegrams, phonecalls, requests, mail, visitors, reporters, snoopers (a big voice saying in my basement window as I prepare to write a story:—ARE YOU BUSY?) or the time the reporter ran upstairs to my bedroom as I sat there in my pajamas trying to write down a dream—Teenagers jumping the six-foot fence I'd had built around my yard for privacy—Parties with bottles yelling at my study window “Come on out and get drunk, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”—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”—Drunken visitors puking in my study, stealing books and even pencils—Uninvited acquaintances staying for days because of the clean beds and good food my mother provided—Me drunk practically all the time to put on a jovial cap to keep up with all this but finally realizing I was surrounded and outnumbered and had to get away to solitude again or die—So Lorenzo Monsanto wrote and said “Come to my cabin, no one'll know,” etc. so I had sneaked into San Francisco as I say, coming 3000 miles from my home in Long Island (Northport) in a pleasant roomette on the California Zephyr train watching America roll by outside my private picture window, really happy for the first time in three years, staying in the roomette all three days and three nights with my instant coffee and sandwiches—Up the Hudson Valley and over across New York State to Chicago and then the Plains, the mountains, the desert, the final mountains of California, all so easy and dreamlike compared to my old harsh hitch hikings before I made enough money to take transcontinental trains (all over America highschool and college kids thinking “Jack Duluoz is 26 years old and on the road all the time hitch hiking” while there I am almost 40 years old, bored and jaded in a roomette bunk crashin across that Salt Flat)—But in any case a wonderful start towards my retreat so generously offered by sweet old Monsanto and instead of going thru smooth and easy I wake up drunk, sick, disgusted, frightened, in fact terrified by that sad song across the roofs mingling with the lachrymose cries of a Salvation Army meeting on the corner below “
is the cause of your alcoholism,
is the cause of your immorality, Satan is
workin to destroy you unless you repent
” and worse than that the sound of old drunks throwing up in rooms next to mine, the creak of hall steps, the moans everywhere—Including the moan that had awakened me, my own moan in the lumpy bed, a moan caused by a big roaring Whoo Whoo in my head that had shot me out of my pillow like a ghost.

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