Some classics hold their immortal status not for the quality of their prose or the value of their stories, but because of their popularity; unfortunately for many book-snobs, the same goes for teen fiction.
I think I just read a book that people have stopped arguing with. Every reviewer seems to appreciate it and see beyond it’s terrible writing. I expected to like Big Sur, but I don’t. I’m surprised by it, though. I’m surprised that such a display of apathy, confusion, scandal and dissoluteness has been read and loved by so many people.
To say that Big Sur should be banned forever and burned to the last copy, however would be closed-minded and censorious. It holds some importance as being a work produced by a figure of popular American culture. Besides, books that have been banned and burned only become more popular.
Jack Duluoz is Jack Kerouac’s restless alter ego. His troubled, rambling spirit (and words) is frustrating to read because of all the self-pity and helplessness so deeply engraved, but he also worships his own mind and thoughts and he’ll write endless sentences just to show you that by simply thinking (of anything), he can come up with something good. He even name drops Shakespeare.
I think the thing most legendary about Jack Kerouac and the Beat generation was the conviction they had of themselves and their work. Kerouac said he lived to write, but in Big Sur he writes only about himself. What really concerns me about these people is that by living selfishly, they’ve affected so many.
If you haven’t read Big Sur, you’re not missing out. It’s more the lives he and other authors of the Beat generation lead that is worth discussing, not their works. Those only serve as mementos.