©1962 by Jack Kerouac; (P)1998 by Blackstone Audiobooks
Parker is an excellent reader.
Big Sur is a monologue, a descent into Kerouac's alcoholic Inferno. Kerouac could only write this having come out of it--for a time--but while I listened to Parker speaking to me in Kerouac's voice, I too felt the need for some stability, some sense of permanence in this all too hectic world.
And while Robinson Jeffers is the better Big Sur poet ("Continent's End" et. al.), this novel elicits the state of mind of an unstable man coming into this landscape to be nearly wholly worn down by the rhythms of the sea, the landscape, humanity and his own disease.
There is humor here too, but I responded strongly to the tragic elements in Parker's evocative reading of this powerful book.
(Parker really gets Cody's voice, just like he got McMurphy's in Kesey's novel--they're similar characters. I can't wait for him to record Visions of Cody.)
Jack Kerouacs prose, like that of James Joyce, gets into your head and races over the reticulations and slaloms down the grooves kicking up powder everywhere. Once you have tasted his best work there is no going back to the safety of the restrained and structured prose of Dostoyevsky, Faulkner, and Hemingway. Big Sur is arguably one of Kerouacs best novels. It documents the personal crests and troughs between his initial fame that catapults him into the limelight and a downhill slide to what eventually becomes a self-destructive, terminal binge. It takes a much brighter look at his experience tower sitting on Desolation Peak than does Desolation Angels. Tom Parkers narration does justice to both the pace and tone of Kerouacs voice. Leave your slippers and smoking jacket at home and put on your walking shoes. Big Sur is waiting just over the edge of the Pacific bluffs.
From 1980 to 1994, I was a local columnist for The Outlook, the daily newspaper in Santa Monica.
This novel is sometimes mistakenly viewed as a drunkalogue by a practicing alcoholic on the verge of insanity. But while Jack Kerouac was a sometime crazy booze hound, he was also a very insightful writer. And yes, when he was living through this particular bad San Francisco trip, he was a sometimes drunk and full-time crackup. However. When he got back home to his mother's house on the East Coast and wrote this book in the solitude that protected his gift, he was clear-eyed. In the hours and days of his lucidity, he detailed his alcoholism, he unflinchingly recorded the flaws in his character that brought on his nervous breakdown. So here we have the Beat Generation not as the Disney characters of nostalgia but as the good, bad and ugly people they were when a very introverted Catholic/Buddhist writer with a ton of talent hung out with them and hung in with them to the point of his own self-destruction.
Tom Parker, as always, does a great job bringing these mostly long-dead voices back to life.
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