by Jack Kerouac
Big Sur Drugs and Alcohol Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Any drinker knows how the process works: the first day you get drunk is okay, the morning after means a big head but so you can kill that easy with a few more drinks and a meal, but if you pass up the meal and go on to another night's drunk, and wake up to keep the toot going, and continue on to the fourth day, there'll come one day when the drinks wont take effect because you're chemically overloaded and you'll have to sleep it off but cant sleep any more because it was alcohol itself that made you sleep those last five nights, so delirium sets in -- Sleeplessness, sweat, trembling, a groaning feeling of weakness where your arms are numb and useless, nightmares, (nightmares of death)... well, there's more of that up later. (14.6)
It's all the more painful to read Big Sur knowing that Jack is aware of his own problem. He has no illusions about his alcoholism nor his delirium tremens.
Arthur Ma suddenly yells: "Hold still you buncha bastards, I got a hole in my eye" and generally the way parties go, and so on, ending with the steak dinner (I dont even touch a bite but just drink on), then the big bonfire on the beach to which we march all in one armswinging gang. (19.2)
Again, Jack gives us some scary and important information about his alcoholism through parentheses. It's as if he's ashamed of his disease and shies away from discussing it directly. Ironically, he draws more attention to this illness with these small, parenthetical asides.
But anybody who's never had delirium tremens even in their early stages may not understand that it's not so much a physical pain but a mental anguish indescribable to those ignorant people who don't drink and accuse drinkers of irresponsibility -- The mental anguish is so intense that you feel you have betrayed your very birth, […] , you feel a guilt so deep you identify yourself with the devil and God seems far away abandoning you to your sick silliness -- You feel sick in the greatest sense of the word, breathing without believing in it, sicksicksick, your soul groans, you look at your helpless hands as tho they were on fire and you cant move to help, you look at the world with dead eyes, there's on your face an expression of incalculable repining like a constipated angel on a cloud (21.13)
Jack's attempt to describe his delirium tremens to his readers is just as much his own attempt to understand and characterize his experience.