Big Sur (novel)

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Big Sur
First edition cover
AuthorJack Kerouac
CountryUnited States
SeriesDuluoz Legend
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Cudahy
Publication date
September 11, 1962
Media typePrint
813/.54 20
LC ClassPS3521.E735 B5 1992
Preceded byLonesome Traveler
Followed byVisions of Gerard

Big Sur is a 1962 novel by Jack Kerouac, written in the fall of 1961 over a ten-day period, with Kerouac typewriting onto a teletype roll.[1] It recounts the events surrounding Kerouac's (here known by the name of his fictional alter-ego Jack Duluoz) three brief sojourns to a cabin in Bixby Canyon, Big Sur, California, owned by Kerouac's friend and Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti; at the same time dealing with his increased drinking and declining mental health. It is Kerouac’s first novel to be fully written following his success in the late 1950’s, and thus departs from his previous fictionalized autobiographical series in that the character Duluoz is shown as a popular, published author; most of Kerouac's previous novels instead portray him as a bohemian traveller.


The novel depicts Jack Duluoz's mental and physical deterioration in the late 1950s. Despite having found mainstream success with his work, Duluoz is unable to cope with a suddenly demanding public, and is battling advanced alcoholism. He seeks respite first in solitude in the cabin at Big Sur, on the California coast, and later in a relationship with Billie, the mistress of his long-time friend Cody Pomeray (Neal Cassady). Duluoz finds respite in the Big Sur wilderness, but is driven by loneliness to return to the city, and resumes drinking heavily.

Across Duluoz's subsequent trips to Big Sur and interleaved lifestyle in San Francisco, he drunkenly embarrasses Cody by introducing Billie to Cody's wife, and finds himself unable to emotionally provide for the increasingly demanding Billie (who proves to be mentally unstable herself) and to integrate into suburban life. On Duluoz’s third and final trip to Big Sur, he brings friends Dave Wane and Româno Schwartz (Lew Welch and Lenore Kandel), along with Billie her son Elliot. The peaceful trip soon goes afoul when Duluoz’s inner turmoil culminates in him having serval panic attacks. The group leaves the following day.

An addendum to the book contains a free verse poem by Kerouac, "Sea: Sounds of the Pacific Ocean at Big Sur", written from the perspective of the Pacific Ocean.

Character key[edit]

Kerouac often based his fictional characters on his friends and family.[2][3]

"Because of the objections of my early publishers I was not allowed to use the same personae names in each work."[4]

Real-life person[5] Character name
Jack Kerouac Jack Duluoz
Neal Cassady Cody Pomeray
Carolyn Cassady Evelyn
Lawrence Ferlinghetti Lorenzo Monsanto
Allen Ginsberg Irwin Garden
Lenore Kandel Româna Swartz
Robert LaVigne Robert Browning
Michael McClure Pat McLear
Jackie Gibson Mercer Willamine "Billie" Dabney
Albert Saijo George Baso
Gary Snyder Jarry Wagner
Lew Welch Dave Wain
Philip Whalen Ben Fagan
Victor Wong[6] Arthur Ma
Lucien Carr Julien

Film adaptation[edit]

A film adaptation of the novel, directed by Michael Polish, was released in 2013.[7][8][9] The cast includes Jean-Marc Barr as Kerouac, Josh Lucas as Neal Cassady, Radha Mitchell as Carolyn Cassady, Henry Thomas as Whalen, Anthony Edwards as Ferlinghetti, Balthazar Getty as McClure, Patrick Fischler as Welch, and Stana Katic as Kandel.[10]


  1. ^ Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Cody, Visions of Gerard, Big Sur. New York: Library of America, 2015, p. 763 ISBN 978-1-59853374-3.
  2. ^ Sandison, David. Jack Kerouac: An Illustrated Biography. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. 1999
  3. ^ Who’s Who: A Guide to Kerouac’s Characters
  4. ^ Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Cody. London and New York: Penguin Books Ltd. 1993.
  5. ^ Wills, D. 'Who's Who: A Guide to Kerouac's Characters', in Wills, D. (ed.) Beatdom Vol. 3 (Mauling Press: Dundee, 2009); Available online Archived 2009-02-12 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Pulley, M: The last days of Victor Wong Sacramento News & Review, September 18, 2001
  7. ^ Xan Brooks, "Jack Kerouac's Big Sur heads to the big screen," The Guardian, April 18, 2011.
  8. ^ "'Big Sur': Kerouac Adaptation Film Cast Announced," Huffington Post, April 15, 2011.
  9. ^ Wyndham Wyeth, "Jack Kerouac's Big Sur to Get Film Adaptation," Paste, April 18, 2011.
  10. ^ Stephen Baldwin, "Cast set for film adaptation of Kerouac’s Big Sur," Archived 2012-07-09 at National Post, April 15, 2011.

External links[edit]