Saturday, May 31, 2008

Reaction to Big Sur

Big Sur is an interesting contrast to common experience. It begins a simple story about getting away to clear the mind and turns into a horrifying, confused disaster of a trip to the other coast. Kerouac is supposed to go from New York or New Jersey wherever he is living to the Big Sur, which is a rural canyon in California, stay in his friend’s cabin alone to get away from his fame and people wanting his attention. He is perfectly successful, he has achieved his goal of being a great author but this seems to offer him no peace or contentment. He has money yet lives with his mother while people stand around outside the house waiting for him to acknowledge them. He wants to get away from that.

Go to Big Sur and stay in a cabin alone, secretly, to get away from all of this. Yet Kerouac sabotages this immediately by getting drunk and showing up in San Francisco to party with all his friends. He eventually gets to the cabin by himself then can’t stand it. He meets back up with Cody with good intentions and there’s lots of other characters that show up. Kerouac intended the trip to help him clear his mind and feel better but he just recreated the same thing he had previously. He ends up back and forth from Big Sur with different groups of people muddying the intent of ever going there and getting drunk.

This book has a great start. The writing is so entertaining to me, especially the first 50 or so pages. After a while he really starts rambling a lot, which I’m sure some people consider the genius of the thing but I find it hard to follow and hard to keep myself into. I slogged through the second half the book going crazy with Kerouac. It was a glimpse into being really crazy, where there’s no logic or rationale to what’s coming out. This was pretty interesting but frustrating. The entire thing culminates with him back at the Big Sur with some people who are expecting to have a great time out there but he goes crazy and they just deal with him. He is running around all night while they sleep, he can’t sleep. Finally they are going to leave and let him get away from them (as if they are the reason). Right before they leave he is finally able to sleep in a chair for a minute and it clears up his entire madness. Sort of a happy, this-is-the-end-of-the-book, ending. Funny in the end he is wanting to back to exactly what he was trying to get away from.

This guy is really an interesting character. This was the third Kerouac book I’ve read, all within the past year (I’m really picking up the pace).

Anyway Kerouac is really an interesting character battling his own psyche and withdrawing from reality through alcohol and drugs. Some of his craziness seems to be totally mental but it’s unclear whether he’s also nutritionally imbalanced, which contributes to the problem.

This Kerouac stuff was really appealing to me at first because I saw this freedom he appeared to have. In On the Road, especially, he seemed to just be going from place to place, having experiences and disasters and great times and leaving it behind for the next place. (Finishing off that huge iced coffee has my fingers racing right now.) I’ve never had that type of experience. I play my life to the normal expectations where I lived at home and was a good kid until I graduated high school, then went to college (straight through the five-year program…but I never did any sabbatical or drop out and reenter or going away or anything…I was just on the path I was supposed to be on) and after I graduated from college I had the first chance to do something different since I had no job or obligation. I didn’t do anything. I just sat in my apartment. Two months of nothing until I got a job back at the same college doing the same thing I was doing in college and back on the straight-and-narrow path counting my money and climbing up the corporate (non-profit) ladder feeling like I have to have a job all the time and not knowing if it's good or bad. By the way it's four years later and I'm still sitting in the same apartment.

So I’m starting to get that maybe the Kerouac writing appeals to me less because I want the actual freedom but more because I just want to throw in that experience while keeping my path going in the direction it has been. It’s a contrast. I’m not really going to quit what I’m doing and jump in a car and drive across the country until that stops working and then move on to the next thing while getting drunk the whole time even though that idea appeals to me. I can read this thing and experience his insanity and see how my insanity is pretty sane in comparison. Want to change some things maybe though. Socially. My career is taking care of itself because I’m great at that stuff. Not great at advancing in other areas but it's easy to look at the career and say that's success.

Final thought here is that Big Sur is an interesting read; it’s not a nicey nice story that’s going to make you feel good or anything, just a look into this guy’s brain during a time in his life which wasn’t so easy going.


Want to leave me some feedback? Here's some ideas: (1) What am I your f-ing English teacher? (2) You're boring, thanks for wasting my time. (3) You get an 'A' on that homework assignment!

One more book knocked off the reading list. One Few Over the Cuckoo's Nest is up next.


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