Study Guide

Big Sur

Big Sur Summary

The novel begins in August of 1960. Jack Duluoz (alter-ago for author Jack Kerouac) is in San Francisco, hung-over. He missed his chance to go to Big Sur and stay at the cabin of his friend and fellow writer Lorenzo Monsanto (alter-ego for friend, Lawrence Ferlinghetti). Sitting in the hotel room alone, Jack realizes, "One fast move or I'm gone." So he gets himself to Big Sur, by bus followed by a long, tiring walk. He finds the heights of the cliffs above the sea to be both terrifying and awe-inspiring.

Time alone at the cabin is exactly what Jack needs. He resolves not to kill any animals and instead feeds the birds, squirrels, and mice. At night he sits by the sea and writes down the words he hears it speaking. The resulting poem is appended to the end of the text. While existing in relative peace, Jack identifies certain "signposts" that indicate something is wrong. Because he's writing in reflection, he makes it clear that there is a grand episode of delirium on the way, and that he'll get to it in his narration in time.

When Jack returns to San Francisco after three weeks, Monsanto informs him that he received a letter from Jack's mother bearing news of his cat's death. This hits Jack hard; it constitutes one of the "signposts" of death and madness. While in the city Jack meets up with many members of the gang – all alter egos for other members of the Beat Generation who spent time with Kerouac. The time in the city is largely devoted to drinking heavily and talking excessively. Among the other characters are Dave Wain, and his girlfriend Romana. Dave is a writer and fantastic driver, who takes the gang everywhere in his jeep named "Willie." He brings with him a teenage admirer named Ron Blake who represents the wannabe Beat kids, and who look up to men like Jack.

Soon enough Jack gets Dave to drive him to Cody Pomeray's place in Los Gatos. Cody is Jack's dear friend (alter-ego for Neal Cassady, also known as Dean Moriarty in On the Road). On the trip to Los Gatos, Jack and Dave lament the way America has changed over the last ten years. Jack himself laments the rift between the image people expect of him (the happy 25-year-old from On the Road) and the man he actually is (a run-down, cynical 40-year-old). In Los Gatos Jack is disappointed that he and Cody never have time to talk alone like they used to. He also sees Evelyn, Cody's wife, and explains that the three of them used to have a very functional three-way-relationship. Evelyn thinks she and Jack will be together in another life, and Jack is more than happy to believe so.

Next they head to a tuberculosis (TB) hospital to visit their sick friend, George Baso. Jack is again reminded of mortality and feels sick at the thought of the permanent condition of death. The whole gang ends up at Monsanto's cabin in Big Sur, though Jack concludes that he's desecrating the place by bringing others there. After the retreat in the woods is over, Cody brings Jack back to the city to meet his mistress, a slender blonde woman named Billie who lives with her four-year-old son Elliot. She and Jack fall for each other immediately; Cody leaves them alone, they sleep together, and Jack ends up staying with her for a week. He mostly just drinks and sits in the same rickety chair all day, despite frequent visits from his friends and attempts to make him eat instead of drinking all day.

Jack's mind begins to deteriorate, probably as the result of a week-long drinking binge. Billie has fallen completely in love with him and wants him to marry her, though Jack maintains that he's not capable of such commitment. He decides to bring Billie, Dave, and Romana out to the Big Sur cabin for a few weeks. It's only downhill from there; Jack's delirium tremens get increasingly worse at Big Sur, culminating in a devastating night of visions, paranoia, shakes, spiritual hallucinations, and sickness.

The delirium nightmare continues until after dawn, at which point Jack falls asleep and wakes up feeling perfectly fine again. In this relieved, rested, enlightened state, Jack concludes that everything will be OK on the long run. He looks forward to returning home to New York, to his mother and his buried cat. "There's no need to say another word," he finishes.

  • Chapter 1

    • As explained in his author's note, Jack Kerouac and the other "real-life" characters in the novel all go by fictional alter egos. The narrator, who we all know is Kerouac, goes by "Jack Duluoz."
    • Jack Duluoz wakes up hung over in San Francisco.
    • Since the publication of his novel On the Road he's been a famous guy, and he was hoping to make a "secret return" to the city, un-harassed by fans.
    • However, alcohol seems to have ruined his plan.
    • The plan was to meet up with Lorenz Monsanto and drive out to his (Lorenz's) cabin at Big Sur on the Californian Coast.
    • Instead, Jack drank too much and bounced into Monsanto's bookstore, City Lights, where everyone recognized him as "the King of the Beatniks." (As we discuss in our "Overview," Jack was a part of the "Beat" generation, an intellectual movement in the 1950s. His book On the Road was the poster novel for the group.)
    • The next morning, when Monsanto found Jack passed out in his hotel room with friends Ben Fagan and Robert Browning, Monsanto just drove off to Big Sur without him.
    • But by the time Jack wakes up, Robert and Ben are gone, and Jack's alone and sad. He's too tired to even drag his body off to the refuge cabin in the woods.
    • Jack is generally exhausted from the fame that's been dogging him since he published On the Road. Beat fans have been swarming his house and distracting him from his writing.
    • He tried to escape the fame and attention by drinking, but now feels he needs to "get away to solitude again or die."
    • That's why he came from Long Island to San Francisco to see Monsanto. On the trip across country, he felt happy for the first time in three years.
    • He finds it amusing that kids all over the world think he's the 26-year-old hero from On the Road, when in fact he's "almost 40, bored and jaded."
    • Now he lies alone in his hotel room, listening to the sad song of the church bells and the cries of the Salvation Army meeting below his window.
  • Chapter 2

    • Jack looks around his hotel room (which he calls his "dismal cell") and takes stock of his possessions, including a first aid kit and sewing materials supplied by his mother.
    • He realizes he needs to make "one fast move" or he'll be "gone" – then reflects on the past three years of "drunken hopelessness which is a physical and spiritual and metaphysical hopelessness you can't learn in school no matter how many books on existentialism or pessimism you read."
    • He remembers waking up with delirium tremens (a episode of delirium caused by withdrawal from alcohol)3 and a heavy fear of death, weighed down and unrecognizable to himself.
    • So before he finds himself weighed down yet again, Jack jumps up, showers, and gets onto a bus headed for Monterey.
    • He needs to escape the city.
  • Chapter 3

    • Once in Monterey, Jack has to get fourteen miles south to Raton Canyon Bridge. He gets in a cab and arrives at the Bridge, which he finds scary and overwhelming.
    • "Something's wrong," he thinks – when Monsanto described his place at Big Sur Jack imagined "something larkish, bucolic, all homely woods and gladness."
    • Instead he's found "all this aerial mystery roaring in the dark." His lantern barely penetrates the darkness as he makes his way over the bridge and listens to the roaring surf below.
    • Warily, Jack holds his lantern at his feet, trying to prove to himself that the ground is there as he takes each step forward.
    • It scares him that the sea is below him, seemingly underground.
    • Soon he comes to a creek, which he remembers from the map Monsanto drew him.
    • As he makes his way down into the trees and darkness, he's even more afraid of what he'll find. He feels there's something primitive about the landscape, and that it doesn't want to be disturbed by his presence.
    • Finally he crawls through a barbed wire fence and treads down a "sweet little sand road," startled only by the black piles of "old mule dung" in this "Heaven" he's discovered.
  • Chapter 4

    • Jack wakes up the next morning having slept in the white sand next to the creek.
    • Looking up the bridge he crossed last night, he can see why he was so scared – it looks like a thousand foot sheer drop down the ocean from there.
    • The scene terrifies him, especially when he notes the car underneath the bridge that fell through the rail and crashed down 1,000 feet.
    • He can't understand why Big Sur has a reputation of being beautiful when it is in fact so fearful in its "Blakean groaning roughrock Creation throes, those vistas when you drive the coast highway on a sunny day opening up the eye for miles of horrible washing sawing."
  • Chapter 5

    • Jack discusses the pet mule he's found lumbering around Big Sur. Jack names him Alf the Sacred Burro.
    • What scares Jack most about the area is the "strange Burmese like mountain" at the east end of Big Sur; it makes him feel crazy now when he's actually feeling healthy and good.
    • Imagine how he will feel, he writes, six weeks from now in the full moon night of September 3rd when he's going mad.
    • The mountain in question reminds him of the nightmares he's been having in New York, about what he calls "the Mountain of Mien Mo" (based on a place he once saw in Mexico).
    • In his dreams, he's sitting on the top of the mountain, dogged by flying horses and staring at "giant empty stone benches […] once inhabited by Gods or giants of some kind but long ago vacated." He calls these dreams "drinking nightmares."
    • Jack writes that, once he finally gets settled in Lorenzo's cabin, he will be haunted by such dark visions.
    • But we're not there yet.
    • After Jack finds the cabin, Monsanto drives him back to Monterey, picks up food and supplies, and brings him back to the cabin again where he leaves him alone "for three weeks of solitude." Jack becomes acquainted to life in the cabin, and spends his days "writing down what the sea [is] saying."
    • It's so calming that he can't understand why "after three weeks of perfect happy peace and adjustment in these strange woods [his] soul so went down the drain" on the night when he returned to the cabin with Dave Wain and Romana (more on them to come).
    • One night Jack's sleeping bag rips and erupts and feathers come flying out in the middle of the night. As he tries to sew a patch onto it, he's bothered by a bat flapping its wings and throwing shadows in the light of his kerosene lamp.
    • At the time, he's intrigued by the sounds of the creek gurgling outside, but he writes that three weeks from now, at the height of his madness, it will become "the babble and rave of evil angels in my head."
    • Unable to sleep with the thought of the bats outside, he stays awake and reads Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde until dawn, when he makes pancakes for breakfast.
    • So Jack becomes accustomed to a routine in the cabin.
    • Every night he begins with "the religious vestal lighting of the beautiful kerosene lamp," followed by a walk outside during which he picks some ferns. In the afternoon he watches the fog roll in and at daylight he watches the flies "retreat" to sleep.
    • In the dark he sits on the beach in the fog with his notebook and pencil and marvels at the awe-inspiring "Pacific fury flashing on rocks like rise like gloomy sea."
    • Jack can see a light on in a cabin up on the cliff overlooking Big Sur and surmises that someone is "having a mild and tender supper." He can't imagine who would ever build a cabin in such a terrifying spot.
    • Best of all is the sleep – Jack sleeps like a log in this solitary cabin and wakes up late in the morning, "refreshed and realizing the universe namelessly; the universe is an Angel."
    • Still, it's in the woods, writes Jack, that you get a nostalgia for cities, where you "never see how sickening it will be" in the cities "because of the primordial innocence of health and stillness in the wilds."
  • Chapter 6

    • Generally, Jack finds Monsanto's cabin to be fantastic, though it has its faults (like no screens in the windows).
    • He finds peace in his solitude here and spends his time daydreaming in the woods and "pray[ing] to the local spirits": "allow me to stay here, I only want peace." He is concerned with theological preoccupations, at least in the days before he goes mad.
    • He promises himself "no more dissipation," that all he will do for the rest of his days is "quietly watch the world and even enjoy it."
    • Here in the woods Jack finds a calm he never had in the city – here where there is "no booze, no drugs, no binges, no bouts with beatniks and drunks and junkies." Here he stops asking himself why God is torturing him. Here there is no more "self-imposed agony."
    • Jack remembers when he had to rehearse a reading of his prose for the Steve Allen Show – despite his insistence that, since he wrote it, he didn't have to rehearse reading it. When he got tired of the rehearsing and the hot lights, he went across the street to drink. He ended up doing the show later, sans rehearsal. Afterwards they took him out with a Hollywood starlet who "turn[ed] out to be a big bore trying to read [him] her poetry." In Hollywood, he concludes, love is for sale.
    • Anyway, writes Jack, these are the sorts of things he thinks about during the long solitary days in the woods.
    • One night a rat runs over his head while he's sleeping, so Jack makes a makeshift indoor tent using a folding cot, a big board, and two sleeping bags.
    • He also takes long hikes inland to "giant sad quiet valleys where you see 150 foot tall redwood trees."
    • He thinks he's a long way from the beat generation in this wilderness.
    • Jack again notes the mule – Alf the sacred burro – wandering back and forth within his fenced confines by the canyon. He feeds him apples and watches him rub himself against a tree.
    • Exploring the landscape, Jack finds a huge fallen tree that forms a bridge over a creek. He figures it must have fallen like that 500 years ago – for him, there's something eerily primordial about the entire area. He imagines himself pulling a huge fallen 60-foot redwood back to his cabin. He imagines a family watching him and asking, "Is anybody that strong?" to which he would reply, "You only think I'm strong." This has Jack laughing for hours.
    • It's now August in Big Sur. It's cold and damp and "every night is absolutely fog: no stars whatever to be seen." This works in Jack's favor, however, as it stops the weekenders from coming out and Jack has the valley to himself. Jack cites the booming August wind, however, as one of the contributing factors to his madness.
    • The best day of all, he writes, is the one when he "completely forgot" who he was, where he was, and the time of day. At the time he was wading in the creek and "rearranging the rocks" so he could more easily get fresh water from the creek with his jug.
    • He finds joy in this hard day's work outdoors.
    • Later, after his fit of madness, it horrified him to look back at these events and this landscape and "see how they'd all changed and become sinister […] when my eyes and my stomach nauseous and my soul screaming a thousand babbling words." "It's hard to explain," he concludes, "and the best thing to do is not to be false."
  • Chapter 7

    • On the fourth day in Big Sur Jack is astounded to find that he's already bored.
    • He recalls a series of quotations from Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance" and concludes that he's happy with the simplicity of living alone in the woods. He enjoys watching the butterflies more than the intellectualism of thinkers like Hermann Hesse (whom he calls an "old fart").
    • Every night at eight Jack takes a notebook, pencil, and lamp and walks down to the beach (past Alf, of course) to write down "the sound of the waves" in his notebook.
    • He often writes in the dark, afraid to light his lamp lest he disturb the people up on the cliff eating their tender dinner. (Of course, he found out later there was no family up there – just "overtime carpenters finishing the place in bright lights.")
    • Though the waves seem to speak mostly nonsense, Jack feels he has to write it down "because James Joyce wasn't about to do it now he was dead." Though he feels it's his duty, he also feels it's what drove him mad.
    • (Jack here includes a footnote to let you know that "the complete poems written by the sea are to be found at the end of this book.")
    • He especially likes to come back to the comfort of the cabin after spending time in the wild of the beach.
    • He finds many uses for the simplest of objects (like a copper kitchen scouring pad) and his shaker or "holy cup" that he's had for five years now. He believes that the inexpensive things are always so much more useful than the expensive things he's bought and never used, like fancy clothing.
    • Best of all is the green t-shirt he found in a dump eight years ago.
    • On his deathbed he'll remember the little things – like arranging the rocks in the stream – and forget the big things, like the day he sold his book.
    • Looking out over the land at noon, Jack muses that it must have looked this way, just as it does now, a thousand years ago. "As far as I can see," he says, "the world is too old for us to talk about it with our new words."
    • The things we do now, he writes, won't matter – the land will go on looking the same forever, whether we're here or not
    • Jack realizes that everything is cyclic – that we may take trees and make them into paper bags, but that those paper bags will return to the earth and grow back into trees again.
    • Then he wonders: "Can you imagine a man with marvelous insights like these can go mad within a month?"
    • Still, he identifies a "nameless horror" in the realization that "we're all being swept away to sea no matter what we know or say or do."
  • Chapter 8

    • Jack takes pleasure in the various animals that come with Monsanto's cabin.
    • He even puts out a nightly plate of cheese and chocolate for the resident mouse (proclaiming his "days of killing mice are over").
    • He takes a moment to catalogue the items in the cabin and out, from the smallest bugs to the largest mountain.
    • Jack is so relaxed, he again asks how he could possibly go insane within three weeks. But then he adds: "there are signposts of something wrong."
  • Chapter 9

    • The first signpost comes one day when Jack walks up the hill to the highway where he drops off a letter to his mother, asking her to give a kiss to his cat, and also a letter to his buddy, Julien.
    • He passes Alf on the way back and feels "strangely low, as tho premonition of the next day."
    • He tries taking a deep breath but it leaves him feeling faint, as though he's recognized "the form of horror of an eternal condition of sick mortality in[him]—In [him] and in everyone."
    • Seeing himself as "doomed, pitiful," he has no idea what to do – how can someone go and chop wood after feeling like that? So he sits and stares at the sea, which seems to yell at him to go instead of sitting around and moping.
    • So Jack runs away from the seashore, and he never comes back without "that secret knowledge: that it [the sea] didn't want [him] there."
    • That, says Jack, was the first indication of his coming "flip."
    • When it's time for him to go back to San Francisco, he takes all the food he has left and spreads it on a table outside for the animals to have.
    • Only then does he realize that this isn't his cabin, and that he doesn't have the right to let animals and rats roam free in it. So to fix the situation, he leaves the rat poison uncovered on the top shelf.
  • Chapter 10

    • Finally, after three weeks, Jack leaves Big Sur.
    • He makes his way out to the highway and watches the tourists driving by in their cars. He figures it will be easy to hitch to Monterey, get on a bus, and be in San Francisco by nightfall with the gang – maybe Dave Wain or even Cody. And of course lots of girls.
    • He remembers that three weeks earlier he fled the city in desperation, but then again the sea told him to leave.
    • While he travels he admires the coast again, wondering what the Spaniards first thought when their ships found the coast.
    • As Jack tries to hitch a ride, he realizes things have changed in America since his On the Road days.
    • All he sees are cars with full families – children in the back seat – that have no room for hitchhikers. He rants for a bit about the vacationing family and all the silly provisions they bring with them on their travels. He imagines that they see him on the side of the road as "the very apotheosical opposite of their every vacation dream" which is why they continue driving.
    • By the afternoon several thousand cars have driven by, and Jack has resolved to walk the fourteen miles. But his shoes aren't made for walking, and he ends up with bloody, blistering feet after seven miles.
    • Finally a man with a dog picks him up and takes him to the bus station in Monterey, even though it's a bit out of his way.
    • When he gets to Monterey Jack cleans up and feels "light as feather and happy as a millionaire."
  • Chapter 11

    • Next Jack gets to San Francisco, gets in a night of sleep in a hotel room, and gets to Monsanto's bookstore, City Lights.
    • Monsanto has some bad news: Jack's mother wrote to say that his cat is dead.
    • To an ordinary man, writes Jack, the death of a pet cat is no big deal. But to Jack it feels like the death of a little brother. He loved Tyke (his cat) completely, and now he finds out that he died the night after Jack left for the east coast.
    • Jack then reproduces the letter for his readers. In it, his mother reveals that the cat got sick (chills, throwing up) and then died. She laments having to bury him in their back yard, and she thinks the birds in the yard must have known somehow that he died. She feels heartsick over the whole thing.
    • Jack was happy and contented with the solitude of his time in the woods until he heard this news. After, he felt the same despair he did when he took that deep breath by the ocean. This is yet another premonition or signpost, he believes, anticipating his coming madness.
    • Monsanto realizes how distraught his friend is.
    • Jack explains (to the reader) that his relationship with his cats has always been "dotty."
    • When Monsanto offers that Jack go back to the woods, Jack declines in favor of getting drunk in the city.
    • Jack thinks it's fortunate he heard about the death of his cat in San Francisco; if he had been home when he heard the news, he "might have gone mad in a different way."
    • In the meantime Jack chats with Monsanto about writing – he remarks that Monsanto has achieved Jack's own dream of ending up "a kin of literary businessman." Jack thinks that his friend's smile (Monsanto was nicknamed "Smiler" in college) seems fake at first, but that if he ever stopped smiling the world might stop too.
    • Jack thanks him for the use of the cabin – it was the happiest three weeks of his life, he says.
    • While he thinks about the death of his cat, Jack laments that "this strange scandalous death comes also to human beings."
    • Anyway Jack meets up with his pal Ben Fagan and his friend "Jonesy" to go out to a bar.
    • Jack finds himself preoccupied by a blonde passing by – he wonders who she is and where she's going.
    • He feels that his buddy Ben understands his time in the woods because he, too, has been alone in the wilderness. Ben is thinner than he was "in [the] mad Dharma Bum days of five years ago, a little gaunt in fact, but still the same old Ben who stays up late at night chuckling over the Lankavatara Scripture and writing poems about raindrops."
    • Most of all, Ben knows Jack very well –he knows that Jack will get raging drunk for weeks on end "just on general principles" and that he'll end up too exhausted to talk to anyone and fall asleep helplessly with Ben at his side, smoking his pipe and keeping silent company.
    • By now Dave Wain is back in town, too, anticipating another wild drinking binge like they had last year, when Dave drove Jack from California to New York in his wild Jeep called "Willie." Dave has never met "the great Cody," so Jack is looking forward to introducing them.
    • (FYI, "Cody" is the alter ego for Neal Cassady, whom you might know as Dean Moriarty from On the Road.)
    • So Jack starts drinking. He can feel "the joy rise in [his] soul" and he doesn't "realize the enormity of what's yet to come."
    • Jack takes a moment to consider whether Dave Wain or Cody is a better driver.
    • The guys all sit around and talk about George Baso, who was with Jack and Dave on that trip across country in the jeep last year. It seems he's in a hospital outside Tulare with T.B. (tuberculosis), so they make plans to go see him tomorrow.
    • Dave has no money, so Jack pays for everything. He's got a young guy with him named Ron Blake, a good-looking teenager who aspires to be a singer and is trying a little too hard to be a beatnik. He thinks Ron might be conning Dave, but then again Dave is a marvelous poet and it fits that young kids want to imitate him.
    • Jack pegs Dave as being one of the greatest talkers of all time. He remembers that Dave and George Baso once fantastically concluded that everyone in America was walking around with a dirty behind because no one cleans himself or herself with water after using the toilet.
    • Now they've really gotten into the drinking, and Ben Fagan retires home (typically, it seems).
    • Ben's home is a old four-story rooming house "on the edge of the Negro district of San Francisco." In it live Ben, Dave, Ron, Jonesy, "a painter named Lanny Meadows, a French Canadian drinker called Pascal and a Negro called Johnson."
    • Jack feels the house embodies everything that people want to think about the Beat Generation. He likes that you can rush into any room and find the expert on any topic.
    • If you want to know about Buddhist scriptures or how to make beef stroganoff or borrow a tape recorder – you can find someone to help you.
    • The kitchen, explains Jack, is the "main talking room." In this madhouse, "there was Zen, jazz, booze, pot and all the works," and "itinerant visitors like [Jack] always had an extra mattress to sleep on."
  • Chapter 12

    • Both Dave and Jack are excited to see Cody – whom Jack cites as one of his reasons for traveling to the west coast in the first place.
    • Cody lives 50 miles away in Los Gatos; Jack calls him up and they make plans to meet that night.
    • So they bring alcohol and pile into Dave's Jeep.
    • There are no seats in the back so they've stuck a mattress there for everyone. As they drive, Jack compares the jeep to the font porch of a house – everyone rocking back and forth (because the seats are broken) and talking.
    • As they drive past housing tracts and factories Dave laments the population explosion in America, and the fact that "the world hasn't any chance to produce say a writer whose life could really actually touch all this life in every detail."
    • He and Jack talk about what Jack calls "the too-much-ness of the world" – they are both humbled by the sheer numbers of things and people and writers and books and ideas.
    • In the backseat of the Jeep are Ron Blake along with Stanley Popovich from New York and his girl Jamie. When the thought of the too-much-ness of the world gets overwhelming, Jack and the others "agree it's too big to keep up with" and simply buy another bottle of Scotch.
  • Chapter 13

    • On the way to see Cody, Jack experiences yet another indication of his later madness: he thinks he sees a flying saucer over Los Gatos.
    • It turns out to be only the top of a radio tower, but still. It reminds him of the time he took mescaline.
    • When they arrive, Cody is sitting over a chess board pondering. His wife Evelyn, a good friend of Jack's, has built a fire, and the kids are in bed.
    • Jack hasn't seen Cody for quite a while as Cody has been doing time in San Quentin for two years on account of marijuana possession. Jack expects his friend to be bitter, but Cody is "quieter, more radiant, more patient, manly, more friendly even."
    • Though Jack is "bursting" to explain everything to Cody about what he's been doing the last few years, Cody only has an hour before he has to go to work.
    • The two men can see that they both regret not having time alone just to talk. Jack misses the old On the Road days, when he and Cody still had time to tell each other their own stories, back before everyone else encroached on their circle.
    • Jack can tell that both Dave and Stanley immediately love Cody (they've never met him before tonight).
    • Jack tries quickly to explain to Cody about what happened the day he (Jack) was supposed to go to San Quentin and lecture the inmates' religious class: he got drunk the night before and overslept.
    • Cody tells him not to worry about it, but Jack knows that his friend hates to see him drink.
    • During all of this both Ron and Dave have been lusting after Cody's wife Evelyn, a beautiful blonde who wants to be left alone with Jack so they can talk about Cody "and his latest soul." Part of this conversation is likely going to be devoted to Billie Dabney, Cody's mistress, who's trying to take him away from his wife.
    • Finally they all go with Cody to his job, which is recapping tires by the San Jose highway. Everyone marvels at Cody's strength and speed (Jack compares him to "Vulcan at his forge").
    • Afterwards they head back to the boarding house in the city, drink heavily, and pass out on the floor.
    • Jack wakes up and feels eternities away from Big Sur, "back in the gooky city" and "trapped."
  • Chapter 14

    • Jack wakes up the next morning to the sound of Lex Pascal chucking glass bottles around in the kitchen.
    • Today they've planned to go visit George Baso (who has T.B.) in the hospital.
    • Before they can leave Joey Rosenberg, "a strange kid from Oregon […], a strange athlete who's suddenly decided instead to become some sort of beat Jesus" arrives.
    • Joey is wearing what the new beat wannabes wear – "special smooth dandy clothes." He immediately spots Jack's beat-up blue sneakers that he hiked away from Big Sur with and wants them for himself. So he trades Jack his snazzy shoes in return for them.
    • Dave explains that Joey showed up about a week ago, and all he wants to do is watch and hang out and that he's a sweet harmless guy who has faith and wants to learn from the beat veterans.
    • Later, "in a strange revery," Jack has a vision of walking across a plain in Arkansas toward a group of pilgrims. In this vision, Dave Wain wants Jack to be quiet and not wake Joey and his disciples.
    • The next morning, when Jack looks at Joey, he realizes "it IS him, Jesus, because anyone […] who looks into those eyes is instantly convinced and converted."
    • A few months later, Jack says, he will throw away those fancy shoes he got from Joey because he believes they bring bad luck. He'll wish he had his beat-up sneakers back.
    • Back in the present, the group goes over to Mike's place to drink and "watch Jesus shoot pool." And Jack, the "drunken novelist," pays for everyone to drink and eat as much as they want.
    • Jack describes the process of getting drunk. "Any drinker knows how the process works," he says. The first day of drinking is OK, then you kill your headache the next day with a few more drinks, skip eating and head right into drinking again on night #2. Keep going until the fourth day, at which point you're on overload and the drinks won't even effect you anymore. Then you need to sleep it off, but you can't sleep and end up delirious, sleepless, sweating, trembling and weak.
    • At noon they pick up Romana, Dave's girl, a Mae West-type woman who is supposedly (or according to Dave) a nudist. She's also intelligent and writes poetry.
    • So they all drive two hours to the hospital to see George Baso, the Japanese Zen master, as Jack calls him.
    • What Jack likes best about George is that the night Jack met him, George outlined his version of the entire life of Buddha and his own theories regarding it. When they all traveled to New York together, George sat on the mattress in the back and wondered aloud if he was traveling to New York or the Keep was traveling to New York, "A Zen problem of some kind," writes Jack.
    • And now that George is very sick, Jack is hit with another wave of mortality, a sense that all these deaths around him are "piling up suddenly."
    • They arrive and surprise George, who is sitting on the edge of his hospital bed and looking displeased. He wants to know what they want in coming to see him, and Jack marks this new skepticism in his friend.
  • Chapter 15

    • "It was like my first frightened realization of what to be Japanese really meant," writes Jack. When they ask George if he's going to be all right, he responds that he doesn't know. George seems nervous that the other sin the hospital will see that he's being visited by "a bunch of ragged beatniks."
    • George, who is only thirty, sits and talks like an old man. They try to cheer him up with "Hey, remember the time…?" stories, but George doesn't respond well.
    • When they all head out to leave, Jack keeps stopping and darting around to wave back at George, who similarly hides and pops out to wave in return. "Suddenly," writes Jack, "we're two hopeless sages goofing on a lawn." He promises himself that someday he'll go to Japan with George.
    • Before Jack gets into the Jeep, he sees George dump a glass of water out of his window, and wonders what his friend meant by such a gesture.
  • Chapter 16

    • By three o'clock in the morning Dave and Romana are asleep and Jack is in a car with a next-door neighbor of the mad rooming house in the city.
    • It seems Jack claimed that Cody and Dave were the two greatest drivers in the world, and this kid ("a Bohemian but also a laborer, a housepainter") jumped in and said he was the greatest driver in the world, because he "used to drive the getaway car."
    • So he decided to demonstrate to Jack, which is why they're zooming all over the city at three in the morning.
    • Jack barely remembers his name – "Bruce something or other" – but he decides that, yes, this kid is in fact the greatest driver in the world. Jack never saw him again after that night.
  • Chapter 17

    • Jack ends up drunk and passed out on the floor.
    • Remembering the death of his cat, he feels depressed, so to cheer himself up he starts reading James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson.
    • Except all he finds in the biography is more death.
    • Just when he's feeling desperate, the phone rings; it's Cody.
    • He begs Jack to drive back to see him so he can loan him a hundred bucks since he's just gotten laid off and he has to find another job so he can pay his rent on time.
    • Jack says sure, he'll have Cody drive him down. The men make a plan to meet and then drive back to the city together so Cody can introduce Jack to his mistress in San Francisco.
    • As he readies for the trip, Jack decides it would be fun to bring everyone down to the cabin in Big Sur.
    • Monsanto agrees and says he'll come too and bring some other buddies. "Suddenly another big ball is begun."
    • Jack buys alcohol for the road and they all pile into the jeep with Ron Blake and Ben Fagan in the back. Monsanto follows in his own jeep with his "little Chinese buddy Arthur Ma." They pick up Cody, get some pizzas, drop off the hundred dollars with Evelyn to pay the rent, and head on down to the cabin in Big Sur.
  • Chapter 18

    • Jack finds Big Sur to be "as familiar as an old face in an old photograph."
    • Cody has never seen Big Sur before, and he's "very impressed" with the scenery. Cody
    • even seems like a little boy, and Jack remarks that ever since he's come back from San Quentin "there's been something hauntedly boyish about him, as tho prison walls had taken all the adult dark tenseness out of him."
    • Jack finds it amusing that by putting criminals away in prison, we actually "provide them with the means of greater strength for future atrocities glorious and otherwise."
    • Cody's reaction to Big Sur seems largely similar to Jack's – he's in awe and fear of it, and can't believe anyone could spend three weeks here alone. He also notices Alf (the mule) right away.
    • Dave Wain is excited, too, but wishes they'd brought "a bevy of schoolgirls" along with them.
    • On the trip, Monsanto called Patrick McLear, who has come along as well.
    • Jack is depressed when they finally reach the cabin itself – it seems so sad and almost human waiting" for him there.
    • He feels he's neglected it and the animals while he's been gone.
    • Monsanto goes out and starts chopping a tree while his buddy Arthur Ma sits on the porch and sketches the first of his 25 daily drawings. Dave unpacks and Ben wanders around smoking his pipe while Ron readies the steaks for dinner.
    • And Jack is opening several bottles of wine. He's "excited to be with the gang" but "there's a hidden sadness too," confirmed later by Monsanto when he says that "this is the kind of place where a person should really be alone."
    • Later they all walk down to the sea, where Cody reacts, as Jack did, with horror to look up and see the bridge above them. Being a mad driver it's scary for him to see the car overturned below the bridge.
    • When they go back to the cabin, McLear is there with his beautiful wife, who doesn't escape the attention of Dave and Cody.
  • Chapter 19

    • Thus begins "a roaring drinking bout" "deep in the canyon."
    • Jack is fascinated by McLear, who's just written "the most fantastic poem in America" called "Dark Brown." Apparently it describes, among other things, sex between him and his beautiful wife.
    • Jack wants to read them his "Sea" poem but doesn't get a chance. Ron is singing and Arthur is still drawing in the corner. They all discuss the way old people drive slowly in Safeway parking lots.
    • As everyone gets increasingly drunk, the conversation becomes bizarre. McLear reads his poems and Monsanto tells stories about the strange guys in his bookstore. Jack doesn't eat any of the steak, he just drinks and converses.
    • When they finally head down to the beach, Jack has it in his head that he's the leader of a gang of guerilla soldiers, challenging some unknown enemy.
    • Monsanto lights a bonfire and the fear and horror Jack felt at being alone here by the water is subdued.
    • Everyone passes out except for Jack and Arthur Ma, who stay up shouting unintelligible things back and forth to each other across the fire. For example:
    • Question: "Who told you you had a hat on your head?"
    • Response: "My head never questions hats."
    • Jack promises more examples to come later.
  • Chapter 20

    • Jack spends this chapter talking about Arthur Ma and comparing him to George Baso (as they are both his oriental friends).
    • George seems more enlightened, but Arthur is warmer and friendlier. Both are small. Arthur is Monsanto's best friend and they make an incredibly odd pair.
    • Arthur is the son of a famous Chinatown family and 30 years old, though he looks like a kid sometimes. He just separated from his wife, who Monsanto says is the most beautiful black girl he's ever seen in his life.
    • Arthur's family disapproved of his painting and so he now lives alone in North Beach. His father was a poet.
    • Jack finds "something anciently familiar about his loyal presence" and wonders if he knew the man in another life.
    • Jack finds it sad that they have no record of the random things they were yelling back and forth across the fire, and provides several more examples that, if you want to read, you should check them out in your book.
  • Chapter 21

    • When Jack was alone in Bug Sur in August, it was fog season. Now that he's back, he has the advantage of looking at the stars every night. It's also incredibly windy – "too big a wind for such a little canyon," he writes.
    • Jack wakes up hung over, and he deals with it by having some wine.
    • Dave makes breakfast and lectures about the right way to cook eggs.
    • After breakfast the men go outside to have a wood-chopping contest. Jack concludes that "you can always study the character of a man by the way he chops wood." Cody, for example, chops "with the fury of a Greek god […], like an example of vast but senseless strength, a picture of poor Cody's life."
    • The others see that Jack is unhappy and weary, and suggest they go to the hot springs bath.
    • Unfortunately, on the way, the men spot a dead otter out in the ocean. This is Jack's otter, about which he wrote poems in his time alone at Big Sur. Yet another omen of death.
    • When they finally get to the hot springs, Jack and Cody refuse to go in because 1) there's a bunch of gay men standing around naked, and 2) the hot water springs seem to be full of sperm.
    • And that's it for the hot springs.
    • Jack notes that he and Cody were both raised Catholic, so despite being labeled as "the big sex heroes of [their] generation" they're actually quite reserved in such situations.
    • All of this adds up the horror plaguing Jack's soul. The peace he found in Big Sur is gone.
    • After the springs they go to Nepenthe, a fancy restaurant atop the cliff. Cody plays chess and eats copiously and talks non-stop. Cody never makes small-talk, explains Jack – if he's going to talk, he has to do all the talking, and it's going to last for hours "until everything is exhaustedly explained."
    • Jack is drunk on manhattans by the time they start conversing with the men at a nearby table: a lieutenant and some older gentlemen. After Jack elucidates his theory of Guerilla warfare, the older gentleman admits that, actually, he's a general.
    • Jack finds both the general and the lieutenant to be "sinister," though they do take an interest in his guerilla warfare theory.
    • A year later, when Jack hears about the army's new tactical approach, he'll think it had to do with his drunken ramblings back in Big Sur.
    • They make it back to the cabin by late afternoon, at which point Jack is very drunk. Everyone heads back to the city except for Jack, who's staying behind in the cabin. Ron Blake asks to stay, too, and Jack doesn't have the heart to turn the poor kid down.
    • Jack wants to sleep, but Ron wants to make the most of his time with the King of the Beatniks. Jack does his best not to "disappoint his believing heart."
    • Jack digresses to lament the state of the Beat culture in America.
    • Truth is, Jack's tired of the enthusiastic young people begging him to hang out and impart his wisdom. He's sick of kids trying to be like him.
    • That's why he came out to Big Sur in the first place.
    • He's not who he was when he went on the road; yet these high school kids keep showing up at his door and expecting him to be 25 and happy.
    • In fact, he's old enough to be their father and just plain tired.
    • So he decides to drink another bottle of port down at the beach with Ron.
    • Unfortunately, he passes a dead mouse on the way. He tries to make a clever allusion to Robert Burns' poem "To a Mouse," but instead just feels depressed that there is yet another dead animal.
    • And in fact, this is his own personal mouse to whom he's been feeding chocolate and cheese all summer. That he knows the mouse makes the situation all the worse.
    • Next they pass a garter snake; it bothers Jack that Ron treats it as some horrifying, sinister, and villain. He feels his Sur has been changed.
    • Once they camp out on the beach, the night is fine, since they're drinking and singing.
    • But the next morning Jack again asks himself, "Why does God torture me?"
    • Delirium tremens, he explains, "isn't 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 birth."
    • Jack goes on to describe his guilt and his sickness as both visceral and intense. "The only thing to do," he says, "is turn over and lie face down and weep," as "there's not even strength enough to tear the hair."
    • Meanwhile Ron is happy and singing at the top of his lungs to start the day.
    • There's no alcohol left and Jack looks back on his feelings and epiphanies while alone at Big Sur and finds them stupid. He's sick, and he knows it. And all the wisdom he thought he found here on the beach is just another way to make people sick.
    • What's worse is that Ron thinks he can help when he can't.
    • Jack just passes out on the beach and moans to himself for hours, speaking in French or meaningless gibberish and turning and tossing in the sand.
    • When Jack finally drags himself up and back towards the cabin, he's horrified to see that Ron's been sitting there the whole time, witnessing his fit of madness.
    • Jack apologizes and explains that he's sick.
    • When Ron tries to tell him to get some sleep, Jack wants to yell at him – the guy has no idea what Jack's going through. But he says nothing.
    • The only time he's ever been worse, says Jack, was a week later when he and Dave returned to Big Sur with two girls "leading to the final horrible night."
  • Chapter 22

    • Next Ron wants to go to Monterey to see McLear, so Jack sends him on his way, preferring to remain alone at Big Sur.
    • Once he is alone, Jack spends the morning drinking water and suddenly feels right as rain, "just like that suddenly."
    • Jack wonders if maybe the whole crowd of guys is just there to make him go mad. If so, that's why solitude makes him feel better.
    • It seems he's had this paranoia ever since he was a kid.
    • He used to think everyone else in the world knew the secret of the universe and were fooling him every minute of the day. And everyone was waiting for him, Ti Jean, to wake up and see the light.
    • Other times he thought of himself "as a special solitary angel sent down as a messenger from heaven to tell everybody or show everybody" that "they were all on the wrong track."
    • Either way, he's happy to be alone now once again in Big Sur.
    • He feeds Alf and sings and watches the birds "and everything […] seems beautiful again." Even the sea ceases to scare him anymore.
    • He runs to the cabin, has a shot of sherry, and attacks and reads all the books he can find.
    • He takes a nap and dreams of the U.S. Navy. He walks out to the beach at night and tells himself, "You don't have to torture your consciousness with endless thinking" and so strolls around and admires the scenery instead.
    • Then he remembers a quote from the yogi Milarepa: "Though you youngsters of a new generation dwell in towns infested with a deceitful fate, the link of truth still remains. […] When you remain in solitude, do not think of the amusements in the town…You should turn your mind inwardly, and then you'll find your way. […] Like a madman I have no pretension and no hope […] At such a pleasant place, in solitude, I […] happily remain […] The more Ups and Downs the more Joy I feel—the greater the fear, the greater the happiness I feel…"
  • Chapter 23

    • The next morning, Ron returns with Pat McLear and McLear's beautiful wife and their little five-year-old girl who thinks it is a beautiful morning in Big Sur.
    • Pat and Jack get to talking and Jack realizes that, despite his paranoia, he actually loves people.
    • Jack takes a moment to describe his friend Patrick.
    • Patrick's one of the most handsome men Jack's ever seen. His personal heroes are Jean Harlow, Arthur Rimbaud, and Billy the Kid.
    • While they chat Pat remembers the first time he met Jack. Pat was terrified , because Jack seemed like a car thief running around with Cody Pomeray.
    • Pat wants to get his poem, "Dark Brown," published in Paris, and he's hoping Jack can help by talking to his own publishers.
    • Jack's been one of Pat's literary heroes ever since Pat read the poem "Mexico City Blues." "I am a language spinner," he says, "and you're idea man."
    • Suddenly the door to the cabin bursts open and there stands Cody, whom Jack describes as "an Angel standing arm outstretched."
    • Cody's brought with him several other angels, also known as his wife (Evelyn) and kids (Emily, Gaby, Timmy).
    • Jack describes "the golden top of Heaven" that Cody seems to bring with him everywhere, "not that he means to produce this effect."
    • Cody is excited and wants to tell Jack all about the new grape-colored "jeepster station wagon" he bought. So they drove up here to celebrate and to thank Jack for that hundred dollars he gave them. and he got a new job.
    • While everyone else sets to cooking some breakfast inside Cody and Jack take a walk alone together. It's the first time they've been by themselves in ages, so they celebrate by smoking a joint.
    • When they get back to the cabin Jack notes that he hasn't had some quality alone time with Evelyn, either.
    • Jack remembers how he and Evelyn used to stay up late talking about Cody's soul. All over American, he explains, women are staying up late and talking about Cody, or possibly "having transcontinental telephone talks about his dong."
    • Cody may play the field, but he is "always tremendously generated towards complete relationships with his women to the point where they ended up in one convoluted octopus mess of souls and tears and fellatio and hotel room schemes."
    • Jack feels that, if nothing else, they will one day write on Cody's grave, "He Lived, He Sweated."
    • And then, as things get crazier, "what started off as a big holy reunion and surprise party in heaven deteriorates to a lot of showoff talk," and they all head down to the beach. They're drinking.
    • Cody rushes off to talk to McLear's wife and Jack ends up talking with Evelyn.
    • Back in the day, Jack explains, Evelyn really had two husbands, Cody and Jack, and they were a perfect family. Evelyn always insisted that she and Jack were made for each other "but her Karma was to serve Cody in this particular lifetime." Yet she claims she'll get Jack, in another lifetime, and it will take him eternities to get rid of her.
    • But Ron Blake is "red-hot for Evelyn" and keeps coming over and interrupting, and Cody gives him the go-ahead to spend some time alone with her.
    • They run out of liquor so they pile into the car to go get more, leaving Evelyn and Ron behind on the beach by the fire. They head for Monterey.
  • Chapter 24

    • At McLear's place Jack is entertained by Pat's entrance to the living room with a hawk on his shoulder. Jack calls him Handsome Hawk McLear and understands why he always writes about dark things. They get more wine and head back to Monsanto's cabin.
    • On the road, Jack observes Cody's driving – it always gives you a sense of doom, not because he'll lose control of the car but because the car might suddenly head straight up to heaven.
    • Cody is talking endlessly. Tomorrow, he says, they'll all see a play together and then they'll drop off Evelyn and the kids and head into the city to meet Cody's mistress.
    • Cody wants to leave Jack alone with her so he can talk and teach her everything he knows.
    • Jack explains that Cody always likes to set Jack up with his women. He loves Cody like a brother, though they have a strange relationship in that each reminds the other of his father.
    • Jack remembers having shared a woman in the past (Marylou was her name in On the Road), and feels their relationship is "some kind of new thing in the world actually where men can really be angelic friends and not be homosexual and not fight over girls."
    • The only thing they ever do fight about, he says, is money, or once marijuana.
    • That night Jack sleeps by the creek in his sleeping bad, while Cody's kids stay in the jeep (because they're afraid of the woods).
    • The next morning Ron is frustrated because Evelyn wouldn't have sex with him.
    • Evelyn's irritated that Cody keeps pushing men on her instead of letting her have her own choice. Besides, she says, she's "sick of all this sex business" which is why she likes Jack so much.
    • Jack remembers the first time he met her and shudders to think of that some-other lifetime in which Evelyn really will get him. "I seriously do believe that will be my salvation, too," he writes.
  • Chapter 25

    • The gang arrives at the play Cody was talking about – an outdoor affair done up Western style with wagons and tents. Jack tries to entertain a sheriff at the gate with a joke.
    • Jack is drunk and causes trouble by trying to play one of the pianos inside. They end up taking off early after arranging for the director to drive Evelyn and the kids home.
    • Jack and Cody, alone in the car, drive towards the glittering city.
    • They don't even talk, they just pass a joint back and forth between them. Jack concludes that their thoughts are so vast, they can no longer communicate them.
    • Cody, he thinks, is the greatest writer in the world – except he'll never get down to writing anything. "Becoming a writer holds no interest for him because life is so holy for him there's no need to do anything but live it, writing's just an afterthought or a scratch anyway at the surface."
    • Jack decides he's proud of himself for loving the world – "Hate's so easy compared."
  • Chapter 26

    • Jack knows that the real plan for the evening is to go see Billie, Cody's mistress, in the city. When they get to the apartment, Jack finds that it's "a well arranged pad with goldfish bowl, books, strange doodads, neat kitchen, the whole clean as a pin."
    • Billie is a blonde who looks exactly like the female version of Jack's male friend Julien.
    • Cody is a bit nervous because he can tell that Jack and Billie "go for each other like two tons of bricks right there" in front of him. Cody announces he's going back to Los Gatos, and Jack has the feeling he'll stay right here with Billie for years.
    • Jack takes a moment to feel sorry for his friend.
    • Subconsciously Cody wants this to happen – for Jack and his mistress to go for each other – but he won't admit it and he'll get all upset and call Jack a "bastard" for stealing his woman.
    • Jack maintains that "there's nothing evil, man-against-man or sinister about any of it, it's just a strange innocence, a spontaneous burst of love in fact and Cody understands that bettern anybody else." So Cody leaves them alone.
    • Jack quickly appropriates the chair next to the goldfish bowl as his for the duration of the week, and there he sits drinking port. Billie's son, Elliot, sleeps in the back room.
    • Right away Billie busts out a collection of letters she's received from Cody and wants to talk all about him, but Jack just can't get over the fact that she looks so much like his friend Julien.
    • They have sex – and Jack agrees with Cody's earlier claim that she's phenomenal in bed – and then Billie packs Jack off to bed.
    • From their conversation Jack decides that most of the things she says are inane, but that she has "the most musical beautiful and sad voice" he's ever heard. Still, "she does say something interesting once in a while."
    • Billie thinks people are either closed or open channels, and in her mind Cody is "a big open channel pouring out all his holy gysm on Heaven." Jack looks at the letters Cody wrote to her and sees that they're all about their souls colliding. Jack is mostly bored.
    • Still, he can't get over her voice – it's almost too much to bear sometimes, he writes. He just "sit[s] and marvel[s] and stare[s] at her mouth and wonder[s] where all the beauty is coming from and why."
    • He imagines going to Mexico with her and getting married, and having "a great big four way marriage with Cody and Evelyn."
    • But he knows that Billie is an enemy of Evelyn's, because she's not satisfied with being Cody's lover. Billie wants to take him away from Evelyn completely.
    • Jack thinks there's not too much difference between the two women except Billie bores him and Evelyn is fascinating; "Evelyn is still the champ," he decides.
    • For the time being he'll just take joy in his new love affair, take refuge in the hope it provides and escape the horror of that deep breath he took on the beach of Big Sur.
    • He tries to describe the feeling, but he knows that no one can ever really write how love makes one feel. One has a 50% approximation of love, at best.
    • In the middle of the night, after they've made love, Billie brings out her four-year-old son, Elliot, to introduce him to Jack.
    • Jack decides that Elliot is "one of the weirdest persons" he's ever met. He wants to always stay by his mother's side and he asks her questions constantly like "Why does the sun shine yesterday?"
    • Billie showers the boy with her attention, and Jack realizes that in his "dirt old soul" he's already jealous of Elliot.
  • Chapter 27

    • That night Jack and Billie stay awake until dawn talking about books, Cody, Evelyn, and philosophy. She gets up for work in the morning while Jack, still drunk, stays in bed.
    • Soon enough Perry Yturbide, one of Cody's very good friends, arrives. Jack describes him as "…a tempestuous lost tossed soul just out of Soledad State Prison for attempted robbery."
    • Perry looks strong enough to break a man in half. He and Jack discuss the possible origins of his last name.
    • Jack appreciates Perry's poetic soul, but he realizes that this man is entirely capable of "exploding and killing somebody for an idea maybe or for love."
    • Somehow everyone found out that Jack was at Billie's place, so the doorbell starts ringing and soon enough the room is filled with "strange anarchistic negroes and ex-cons."
    • Amidst this gang Jack is reminded of a nightmare he had about San Francisco before he left the East Coast in which the whole city was silence, and men stood in second floor windows and said nothing while everyone watched. The beatniks had the streets to themselves but didn't speak, and Jack took a ride "on a self-propelled platform" through downtown and to a chicken farm where a woman invites her to stay and live with him.
    • All of this, he feels, is "an indication of the coming madness in Big Sur."
  • Chapter 28

    • Perry wants Jack to go with him and visit a general of the U.S. Army, where they can "dig the most beautiful girls you ever saw."
    • Jack goes (and take Elliot with him since Billie is at work), but the "beautiful girls" turn out to be between the ages of eight and ten, and the daughters of said general. Perry can't take his eyes of the little girls and Jack realizes he's "dangerously insane." He says he's going to kidnap the pony-tailed ten-year-old and then leaves with her on a walk for an hour while Jack stays and talks with the mother.
    • Jack is out of it and doesn't really understand anything that's happening.
    • Elliot gets in a fight with some of the other little kids and kicks at Jack when he tries to help – it seems he hates Jack's guts. Jack calls Billie who promises to come pick them all up from the general's. She is unfazed by the news that Perry is threatening to kidnap small girls.
    • So Jack focuses his attention on chatting with the general, who gives him more alcohol.
    • Jack finds him as sinister as the general he met back in the restaurant in Big Sur.
    • When Perry returns with the little girl, Jack realizes "everybody is jut living their lives quietly" and that only he himself is insane.
    • He wishes Cody were there to explain it all to him. He's worried that his paranoia is taking over, that he "read[s] plots into everything" and is "beginning to go seriously crazy."
    • With this "strange apocalyptic madness […] now shuddering in [his] eyeballs," Jack maintains that he just can't understand what's going on around him.
    • He wants to curl up in Evelyn's arms, but he ends up with Billie.
  • Chapter 29

    • That night Elliot refuses to sleep in his crib and instead comes out of his room to watch his mother and Jack make love. Jack takes issue with this, but Billie asks how else is he supposed to learn.
    • So Jack goes along with it and lets the kid watch, though he decides that Billie is insane and he's not as crazy as he thought.
    • He spends the whole week sitting in that chair by the goldfish bowl and drinking port while everyone comes to visit – Monsanto, Fagan, McLear. But he doesn't leave the chair.
    • During the nights he makes love to Billie "like monsters who don't know what else to do."
    • Jack calls Cody to ask when he's coming back; Cody tells him to stay put, he'll be there in a few days.
    • Perry continues to visit and scare Jack by doing so; he's a strong, tough, intimidating guy. Perry tells Jack that he's drinking too much and that Cody said he (Jack) was falling apart. He says he'll take Jack to L.A. and introduce him to everyone.
    • Billie tells Jack they'll get married, and not to worry because Cody wants it too.
    • Jack is too drunk to understand what's going on around him.
  • Chapter 30

    • Finally Ben Fagan arrives, alone, to rescue Jack.
    • Ben tells his friend, who's been sitting in Billie's chair for about a week, that he needs to sleep.
    • Jack, slightly out of it, remembers making a giggly phone call to his publisher on behalf of McLear, who wants to get his poem, "Dark Brown," published.
    • Jack and Ben end up getting a bottle of alcohol and going out to the park, though Jack passes out asleep before he can have anything to drink. Ben watches over him while he sleeps.
    • The two of them end up conversing back and forth the same way Jack and Arthur did over the fire on the beach – with a series of seemingly random comments.
    • The two men walk around until sunset when they head home arm in arm. Jack feels as though Ben has watched over him all day, has blessed him somehow and given him the only peaceful day he's had outside of his solitude in Monsanto's cabin.
    • Ben reminds Jack that in 1957 he claimed to be the greatest thinker in the world. "That was before I fell asleep and woke up," says Jack. "Now I realize I'm no good at all and that makes me feel free."
  • Chapter 31

    • Jack stands at the window of Billie's apartment and watches as Ben Fagan gets on the bus at the corner of the street. Jack remembers standing like this when he was a child, looking out windows the same way.
    • What gets him is that others in the world don't feel guilty about their lives. He may be a drunkard, but he feels guilty about being a member of the human race at all.
    • He remembers the words of Milarepa: if you gain insight during meditation, don't be eager to share it with others.
    • As a writer, Jack thinks that's exactly what he's trying to do. If he doesn't write, he feels, he'll have no purpose on earth.
    • When Billie gets home, Jack sits back down in the same old chair, which collapses under him. He looks over at the fishbowl and realizes that the goldfish – the goldfish he's been sitting next to for a week – are dead.
    • He wonders when that happened, or if maybe he caused it by giving them some Kellogg's corn flakes. He can't stand the thought that it might be his fault.
    • Jack gets a little anxious – he asks Billie what they're going to do now. All he wants to do is go home and die with his cat.
    • Jack realizes he could have been "a handsome thin young president in a suit" but instead he's a drunkard sitting next to a pair of dead goldfish.
    • Then, looking at Billie and Elliot, he realizes "it's just a little family home scene and [he's] just a nut in the wrong place."
    • When he asks aloud what he's done wrong, Billie tells him he's withheld his love from her.
    • She tries to paint a picture of the happy couple they'd make if they were married. Jack responds by telling her he's a creepy guy and she doesn't know the half of him.
    • Perry comes into the room and Jack remembers that he likes to joke about kidnapping little girls.
    • Then he sees that Perry has tears in his eyes and he realizes – Perry "is in love with Billie and has always been, wow." But when Jack suggests this to him, Perry denies it and they argue.
    • As Jack writes, "Perry is in fact a tragic young man with enormous potentials who's just let himself swing and float to hell. […] Besides loving Billie secretly and truly he must also love Cody as much as I do […], yet he is the character always being put away behind bars […], ragged, covered with woe."
    • He and Jack sit in Billie's apartment while Jack entertains offers of pot from a visitor.
    • And now for some sex talk. Jack finds "the muscular gum of sex" to be "such a bore," but maintains that he and Billie have great fun together. They make largely idealistic plans to be together forever.
    • Billie firmly believes they're meant for each other, but Jack knows that they're not. There's Elliot, for one, who doesn't like Jack (and Jack doesn't like him either).
    • Jack wants to call Dave Wain and have him drive them all out to the cabin at Big Sur for a week. Once he gets on the phone, Jack rants for a bit about how he's done everything, seen everything, and all he sees now is "the same old singsong sad song truth of death." The reason he yells about death so much, he explains, is that he's really yelling about life – "because you can't have death without life."
    • Finally Jack gets Dave on the phone and tells him to bring his big brunette Romana and come in the jeep and take them all to Big Sur without Ron Blake.
    • Jack explains that he's been sitting at Billie's drinking for a week and needs to leave.
    • Dave tells him he ought not to drink so much – but Jack counters that "that's not the real trouble."
    • The two of them banter back and forth – with sentences that seem largely the result of free association word games – and conclude that, yes, Dave will get Romana and drive to pick up Jack and Billie.
  • Chapter 32

    • While they wait for Dave, Jack and Billie pack up some clothes for Elliot and talk about the dead fish. Jack is still trying to figure out if he caused their death, and is reminded by the fish of the dead otter he saw back at Big Sur.
    • He can't really explain his feelings to Billie "who's all abstract and talking about our abstract soul-meetings in hell."
    • Meanwhile Elliot pulls at Billie and wants to know what's happening.
    • While Jack asks why the fish died, Billie tells him to open his eyes to why God put him here on earth, to stop all his staring and ranting and just be with her.
    • Jack, ashamed, admits to being "a helpless hunk of helpful horse manure" begging her for help.
    • While Billie talks about getting married, Jack sees "raving before [him] the endless yakking kitchen mouthings of life, the long dark grave of tomby talks under midnight kitchen bulbs."
    • Life is "avid and misunderstood," he writes, but it fills him with love to realize that it "nevertheless reaches out skinny skeleton hand" to him and to Billie.
    • Jack ends the chapter with an ominous, "And this is the way it begins."
  • Chapter 33

    • Dave and Romana arrive at Billie's and they all have a good time packing up, singing, and drinking.
    • When they leave in the jeep, Jack sits up front next to Dave and Romana to recapture the moving-front-porch feeling he had the last time they drove together. Besides, he likes the "hope" of sitting in the front seat and looking at the white line down the center off the road.
    • He sings as they drive and he's happy, but he knows that the bad moments always start out like this.
    • Jack insists that they stop at Cody's, supposedly so he can pick up some clothes but secretly because he wants Evelyn and Billie to come face to face.
    • Cody is horrified even though Billie stays asleep in the jeep, but Evelyn is "unperturbed." She doesn't even know why Cody is so upset, though Jack explains that this ruins his chance to be "real secretive."
    • Cody is mad at Jack for bringing his mistress to his wife's place.
    • Jack wakes up Billie and brings her inside; "both girls keep their silence and hardly look at each other."
    • Cody seems like he's just tired of Jack bringing people to his house, and causing disturbances in his marriage.
    • But Jack feels too good to realize that Cody is angry.
    • Jack thinks that he'll "never really know what [Cody's] up to anyway in the long run."
    • Jack sees himself as just a visitor bouncing from coast to coast and always on the periphery of other people's lives, never really involved in them in any meaningful way.
    • He's a "traveling stranger" with no life of his own.
    • Then he looks out of the window and sees his star shining in the sky, as it's been doing his whole life, though it's getting dimmer.
    • "In fact," writes Jack, "we're all strangers with strange eyes sitting in a midnight living room for nothing."
    • They drink some more and the gang finally takes off, leaving Cody and Evelyn behind.
    • When they get to Big Sur, everything is fine. Jack has a good time drinking, singing, and unpacking.
    • "No," he writes, "it's the next day and night that concerns me."
  • Chapter 34

    • The next morning Jack gets up and sees Dave and Romana having sex while he's getting ready for breakfast. He imagines Romana seeing the two of them as Adam and Eve waking up in the woods together.
    • Right away they see they're out of wine, so Dave and Romana get some more, which leaves Jack alone to talk with Billie.
    • Jack starts to feel depressed as last night's alcohol finally begins to lose its power. He's shaking so much he can't even light the fire.
    • Meanwhile Elliot is all over Billie, asking her endless little-kid questions, most of which start with "Why."
    • Later the couple walks down to the beach.
    • Billie is upset because everything was fine with Jack last night, and now he won't even hold her hand.
    • She threatens to kill herself.
    • Jack begins to realize, now that he's sober, that this has all gone too far, that he doesn't love Billie, that he's leading her on, and that he made a big mistake bringing everyone down to Big Sur. "I'm just plumb sick and tired just like Cody I guess," he concludes.
    • On the walk to the beach the scenery looks completely different than it did when Jack was alone
    • Even the movement of the leaves makes him feel horrible.
    • He remembers before when he wrote down what the sea spoke to him, but now he has no interest in anything it might have to say. He feels like he was a fool before for "using words as a happy game."
    • Billie is moaning on the beach after realizing the hopelessness of everything with Cody and now with Jack too.
    • Watching her walk by the water, Jack wonders if she really kill herself; she could just walk into the waves and drown.
    • She told Jack he was her last chance –but all women say that, he tells himself. She probably wasn't talking about marriage, he thinks, rather "some profoundly sad realization of something in me she really needs to go on living."
    • In his mind he sees the words "St. Carolyn by the sea" imprinted in the sand above her figure.
    • Jack is again made nervous by the movement of the wind, the leaves, and the waves. "It seems God is really getting mad for such a world and's about to destroy it," he writes.
    • He sees Billie heading towards the water and notes that if she does try to kill herself, he'll have to go in after her.
    • Just when he's getting nervous, she turns around and comes back toward him.
    • Then he muses: if he calls her a "nut" in his mind, what the hell must she call him? "O hell, I'm sick of life," he writes. "If I had any guts I'd drown myself in that tiresome water."
    • He compares the wandering, moaning Billie to the figure of Ophelia.
    • Jack notes the neighbors and figures there's talk about this crazy gang taking up Monsanto's cabin, especially since Dave and Romana had sex in plain sight of everyone on the beach that morning.
    • All this scrutiny makes Jack feel like "the most disgraceful and nay disreputable wretch on earth."
    • He credits his hangover for the paranoia he now feels.
    • Back at the cabin Jack finds he can't do anything – can't sleep, can't walk, can't chop wood, can't sit still.
    • He finds himself going down to the creek over and over to drink more water until Dave Wain comes back and the two of them sit around on the porch slugging wine. Jack's paranoia makes him wonder if Dave put something in his wine bottle.
    • But Dave is happy and makes plans to catch a big fish for dinner.
    • When Dave suggests they go to Nepenthe, (the restaurant where Jack met a general earlier in the novel), Jack furiously screams "no" and then rationalizes his reaction.
    • Jack is also adamantly against going to see Henry Miller, a painter and writer who lives in Big Sur, had written the preface to one of Jack's novels, and wanted to meet Jack.
    • They were supposed to all visit him earlier in the week except everyone got drunk instead. "The hell with it," Jack says, as in his paranoia he imagines Miller's preface as a malicious deterrent from his own work.
    • Billie, too, is getting worse.
    • She's ranting about all the different things she could do – put Elliot with a nice family to take care of him, get to a nunnery (more Ophelia references), kill herself and maybe Elliot too.
    • Jack tries to tell her not to talk like that, and not to be so hung up on him because really he wouldn't be any good for her anyway.
    • Then Billie, rather insightfully, remarks to Jack, "You want to be a hermit you say but you don't do it much I noticed, you're just tired of life and wanta sleep."
    • She remembers that the first night they were together Jack told her he loved her and then just went back to drinking.
    • She knows he's a writer and he suffers, but at the end of the day he isn't a great guy. She knows he can't help his sickness, but she wishes he wouldn't give up so easily.
    • Jack responds that he's bound up, that he "can't move emotionally."
    • He criticizes the people who go around talking about what a beautiful world God made –how do you know God doesn't hate it, he asks? "He might even be drunk and not noticing what he went and done."
    • Jack begins to talk about whether or not God is dead, but he realizes that all this philosophy is just "empty words," that he's been "playing like a happy child with words words words in a big serious tragedy."
    • The worst part, writes Jack, is that the more Billie talks to him and tries to help the worse it gets.
    • In his paranoid state he even suspects she's doing it on purpose, trying to drive him mad. "She must be some kind of chemical counterpart to me," he thinks, "I just can't stand her for a minute."
    • At the same time he is sympathetic because she actually seems like a "wonderful person."
    • As Jack spins out of control he begins yelling at Billie, who tries to calm him down.
    • All through his fits Elliot is there, too, tugging at Billie and saying over and over again "Don't do it Billie" whenever she puts her hands on Jack.
    • Finally, frustrated with her son, Billie starts beating him in front of Jack and sobbing herself, yelling that she'll kill Elliot and herself if he doesn't stop crying.
    • Finally she breaks down and takes him in her arms.
    • Jack knows that through this horrible scene Alf the Sacred Burro is standing in his yard, waiting for someone to give him an apple.
    • He goes back to yelling at Billie; among other things, he advises her to get to a nunnery.
    • Then he tells the story of meeting a reverend mother once who cried after talking to him, because Jack thought the universe was a woman since it's round. Then again, he says, she might have been crying about a romance she had in her younger days with some soldier who died. "She was the greatest woman I ever saw," says Jack.
    • Despite the arguing, or perhaps because of it, the two of them end up making love, though the whole time Elliot is pulling at Billie and begging her not to do it.
    • Billie is on top, and Jack finds this indicative of just how beat down he feels.
  • Chapter 35

    • Jack's paranoia extends even to sex – he interprets his orgasm with Billie as "some token venom that splits up in the body," making him hate himself and everyone around him. He writes: "I've been robbed of my spinal power right down the middle on purpose by a great witching force."
    • Leaving Billie, he runs down to the creek to drink some water.
    • She really should get to a nunnery, he thinks.
    • But things are no better at the creek; the water tastes funny, like someone dumped gasoline upstream, he thinks. Slowly being taken over by his paranoia, Jack thinks that the neighbors did it on purpose to poison him.
    • Jack is still sitting by the creek "like an idiot" when Dave Wain comes by with a "measily but beautiful pathetic and as you'll see holy little rainbow sea trout."
    • Right away Dave shows Jack how to clean the fish and prepare it for dinner.
    • Dave thinks fishing is the greatest thing in the world and intends to spend his life doing it. "Clean hard work is the savior of us all," he says.
    • While Dave talks, Jack suspects that Billie is back at the cabin telling Romana about Jack's madness, and that Dave also has a good idea of what's going on with him.
    • Jack also marvels at Dave: the man can spend weeks drinking, like Jack, but doesn't suffer from withdrawal as Jack does. He is amazed that Dave can be useful and normal and make small talk.
    • Jack feels he's "the only person in the world who is devoid of humanbeingness."
    • Dave comments that Jack should cut back on the drinking, and chuckles that this little holy fish will heal him.
    • Looking at the fish, however, Jack feels sick again, as he's faced with yet another dead creature and the realization of mortality yet again. Both men know that hours ago the fish was happily swimming along in the sea.
    • Jack feels so sick that he suggests he can't stay at Big Sur for the week, as was the original plan.
    • "I think I'll die here," he says.
    • Dave is disappointed at the thought of leaving early, and Jack feels like a rat for dragging him away from city life to the wilderness and then bailing.
  • Chapter 36

    • Back at the cabin the women get salads and bread ready while Dave prepares the fish.
    • Jack watches "from the porch with horrified eyes" the shadows of his friends moving about "monster-like and witch-like and warlock-like." His paranoia is back.
    • Jack runs to the creek thinking that the water will heal him.
    • Just as before, he thinks there's kerosene in the creek. While he runs back and forth to the cabin he notes the eyes of the watching neighbors staring at him.
    • Meanwhile Dave is pumped for what he calls "a sacrificial banquet with all kinds of goodies you see laid in a regal spread around one little delicious fish."
    • Because of the small size of the fish and the large size of the party, everyone only gets about four bites. While he cooks he explains the proper way to heat the oil, and prep the fish.
    • Jack looks over Billie; she's sitting "like a nun in the corner."
    • Both Dave and Romana are eager to get Jack to eat.
    • Jack, in his paranoid state, interprets this enthusiasm and the various pieces of food shoved in his face as attempted poisonings.
    • Romana is walking around mostly naked, except for bra and underwear. And Jack is at least sober enough to notice.
    • When Dave playfully touches Billie and winks at him, Jack is too out of it to respond in any kind of good natured way – even when Dave jokes about switching from the husky brunette Romana to the thin and blonde Billie.
    • Jack looks out the window at the full moon outside – it doesn't bode well for his impending madness. He goes back to the creek and drinks more water.
    • When it's finally time for dinner Jack sits down at the table, sheepishly – he feels useless, as he's the only one who contributed nothing to the prep work. "The idiot in the wagon train […] nevertheless has to be fed."
    • Before they eat, Dave thanks the full moon and the "Fish people" and the "Fish god." He very carefully takes his fork and extracts a tiny, delicate piece, which he offers to Jack. Jack takes it, and everyone else takes "their little holy bites."
    • Jack is frightened by it all.
    • During dinner Dave announces that he and Jack are sick from drinking and they're going to reform themselves.
    • Jack feels sick because in the dead fish they're consuming he recognizes all the other dead animals he's recently encountered – his cat, the otters, mice, snakes, and goldfish.
    • After dinner Dave sits on the porch and smokes a cigarette while Jack runs down to the creek again.
    • Jack feels that he needs to escape, but doesn't understand why or what's going on with him. He runs back and forth from the cabin to the creek.
    • When he sees the shadows of his three friends, he again grows paranoid – he suspects they're plotting against him.
    • Maybe Dave is jealous of his literary career; maybe Cody sent Billie to undo him; maybe Romana is a secret agent.
    • He tries to go for a walk but is too frightened to be out in Big Sur alone and returns to the cabin; he claims he hears the sea babbling.
    • As the night goes on, things get worse for Jack.
    • He descends into some serious delirium, which you'll have to read in your text to completely understand.
    • The remainder of the chapter is characterized by experiences like this one:
    • "Masks explode before my eyes when I close them, when I look at the moon it waves, moves, when I look at my hands and feet they creep – Everything is moving, the porch is moving like ooze and mud, the chair trembles under me."
    • He wavers between extreme paranoia and sympathy for his friends. He feels guilty at accusing them in his mind.
    • Jack thinks he finally understands "the unbearable anguish of insanity: how uninformed people can be thinking insane people are happy" when in fact "there's a tightening around the head that hurts, there's a terror of the mind that hurts even more, they're so unhappy and especially because they can't explain it to anybody." The insane, he says, suffer more than anyone else in the world.
    • Again he's consumed by the babbling of the sea, "telling [him] to die because everything is over."
    • Finally Dave and Romana head to the creek with their sleeping bag to retire for the night. Jack and Billie sit awake next to the fire while she begs him to come lie in her arms.
    • Jack is too paranoid and delirious to have normal conversation.
    • Billie finally persuades him to get into her sleeping bag with her. They're both naked but Jack is sweating and embarrassed and feels trapped.
    • Jack jumps and says they should try the cot inside instead – but he arranges it as he did the night he was trying to close himself off when he was alone at the end of the summer. The result is that he's just as closed in and trapped there as he was in the sleeping bag.
    • Next he tries laying the sleeping bag outside on the porch, but one thing or another (mosquito, sweat, lightning) bothers him and he just can't sit still.
    • Jack concludes that the only good sleeping spot in the whole place is down by the creek, and Dave and Romana have taken it.
    • Billie is frustrated that they're not having sex; she begs Jack to make love to her, but he says he can't.
    • Jack is horrified to find that he can't even light his cigarette – "something sinister blows it out," he writes. When he finally does get it going, "it mortifies [his] hot mouth anyway like a mouthful of death."
    • He decides he needs to sleep apart from Billie; he tells her he's just going to take a nap and then he'll come and sleep with her in a bit.
    • That doesn't work. Jack just stares into the darkness with wide, frightened eyes; when he tries to close them, "some elastic pulls them open again." "If I try to turn over," he says, "the whole universe turns over with me but it's no better on the other side of the universe. I realize I may never come out of this."
    • His mother must be waiting for him at home, Jack thinks. She must be praying for him because she knows what he's going through. He cries out for her to help him.
    • Jack wonders briefly if Dave and Romana aren't lying secretly awake, waiting for him to die.
    • Maybe it's because he's a Catholic, and this is all a big anti-Catholic scheme.
    • "This madness changes you completely," he writes, "and in the morning you no longer have the same mind."
    • At this point the voices he hears from the sea and his own mind are overwhelming; he sees "faces, yelling mouths, long haired yellers, sudden evil confidences, sudden rat-tat-tats of cerebral committees arguing about 'Jack' and talking about him as if he wasn't there."
    • Jack cries out that he's not human anymore and will never be safe again. He wonders what his mother will think of him. He cries out for his cat Tyke until he remembers he's just eaten a poor little fish and has no right to ask for his cat.
    • Then begin the visions. Jack sees "blue Heaven and the Virgin's white veil" but is interrupted by "a great evil blur like an ink spot" that he believes to be the devil. He sees angels "laughing and having a big barn dance in the rocks of the sea." "Suddenly," says Jack, "as clear as anything I ever saw in my life, I see the Cross."
  • Chapter 37

    • The chapter begins: "I see the Cross, it's silent, it stays for a long time, my heart goes out to it, my whole body fades away to it."
    • Jack feels that his body is dying; he starts to scream but he doesn't want to wake anyone up, and doesn't want anyone to hear his screams.
    • As soon as he surrenders to it – as soon as he allows himself to sink into it – he comes back to life.
    • The visions of devils are back, too, tormenting him. He sees the Cross again, but it's smaller and further away. Jack thanks Jesus for being with him.
    • Jack can't believe that he's spent so many years meditating and studying Buddhism and now here it is – the Catholic Cross – before him clear as anything. "We're all saved," he thinks, and now he can sleep.
    • But sadly, it's only begun. It's one o'clock in the morning and Jack has a long night ahead of him.
    • As it gets worse, Jack is torn in battle between the raging devils and the image of the Cross.
    • If he could only sleep, for an hour, he knows, "the whole complex of noisy brains would settle down, some control would come back somewhere inside there, some blessing would soothe the whole issue."
    • But he is distracted by a flapping bat around his head and the vision of a flying saucer above his head.
    • Looking towards the cabin, he can see that Billie is asleep. But when Elliot thumps his little foot Jack is filled with shame at the idea that the boy is awake and witnessing all of this. Then he suspects that Elliot is a warlock, that he's torturing Jack and even Billie.
    • Moments after this silent accusation, Jack feels sorry for Elliot when he sees that his bare arms are outside the sleeping bag and probably freezing. He covers him up and goes back to lie down "with mad eyes looking deep inside" him.
    • As he begins to drift off Jack feels the "bliss" of sleep. And then he dreams.
    • Jack dreams that he and "two other kids" are hired to work in the mountains. He has to lie on the edge of the mountain in snow trying to rescue some lost men – until he realizes his employers are fooling him and there are no lost men.
    • He and his coworkers then start on a trip downriver; on the way they're stopped by peasants who tell stories about "the God monster machine" who "makes sounds like certain birds and owls and has a million infernal contraptions enough to make you sick with all the slipshod windmill rickety details."
    • When they arrive at another Mien Mo Mountain, there is a river running through it and vultures out on the rocks. Jack sees bums pulling at the vultures and feeding them like pets. Then he dreams that the vultures are actually fornicating, "humanly formed vultures" with human features engrossed on a slow, grotesque act of sex. Jack is tormented by how human they look.
    • Next he's taken to a Vulture People part of town and brought into a vulture person apartment. He's again disgusted by these half-humans; "Their faces are leprous thick with softy yeast but painted with makeup to make them like thick Christmas dolls […], like with thick lips of rubber muzz, fat expressions all crumbly like cracker meal, yellow pizza puke faces." The apartment is huge and greasy and full of washrooms, and there are dozens of uncooked chickens lying all around rotting.
    • Jack's dream only gets more visceral, and disgusting as the night continues.
    • For further details of this manic episode, you should read your book.
    • Fortunately, some time during Vulture People visitations Elliot thumps his foot and wakes up Jack.
    • Now awake, Jack again paces back and forth from the cabin to the creek, cursing Dave and Romana for taking the only good sleeping spot.
    • Jack tries to drink the last of the port wine, but there's nothing left in the bottle.
    • Fully dressed, Jack gets into the sleeping bag with Billie, thinking maybe he can sleep. He doesn't take his clothes off because he wants to be able to run away quickly should something go wrong.
    • He wants to wake Billie up and talk to her, but he's afraid of scaring her.
    • Again Jack is tormented by the sound of the water babbling nonsense at him. He writes: "Every thought I have is smashed to a million pieces by millionpieced mental explosions that I remember I thought were so wonderful when I'd first seen them on Peotl or Mescaline."
    • Every time Jack starts to drift off to sleep Elliot thumps his foot on the floor and wakes him.
    • The horror, he says, is thinking that he deserves this all for having written so much about the suffering of others in his previous books. If he ever gets out of this, he promises, he'll become a mill worker and shut his big mouth.
  • Chapter 38

    • Dawn ends up being the worst part – until morning, which is even worse. The bright sun seems to intensify his pain.
    • Jack goes walking up and down the valley trying to find a place to sleep, but he doesn't want to lie down somewhere where tourists can see him.
    • "What on earth's happened to me?" he asks. "Am I not a human being and have done my best as well as anybody else?"
    • Jack feels guilty about the wisdom he presumed to have earlier in his life and through his studies and writing. He realizes he's just a piece of dust.
    • When Jack returns to the cabin and sees his friends sleeping, he decides that sleep is death, that in fact everything is death.
    • When the others finally get up and start to make breakfast, Jack tells Dave that he can't take anymore, that he can't possibly stay in Big Sur another moment and they have to drive back to the city this minute.
    • The group gets ready to head back.
    • Billie is supposed to dig a pit to bury the garbage, but she digs a tiny coffin-shaped hole – exactly the right size for Elliot, Jack notices, as does Dave. "We've all read Freud to sufficiently understand something there," writes Jack, especially since Billie has been beating Elliot all morning and talking about suicide.
    • The coffin-shaped hole horrifies Jack so much that he quickly takes a shovel in order to bury the garbage. As soon as Elliot sees him pick up a shovel he starts screaming and won't let him anywhere near the hole.
    • Finally Billie dumps the garbage in the pit; when she asks Jack if he's going to "finish the job," Jack doesn't know what she means.
    • Dave, watching the scene, also recognizes "something cold and frightening" in the whole scenario.
    • Finally Jack calls Billie out on making the pit look like a little grave; but she's only smiling and shoveling dirt by that point. Elliot is screaming and attacks Jack when he tries to take the shovel. Finally Jack just yells, "To hell with all this madness!" and sinks into a chair on the porch. The girls start cleaning up the porch, Dave goes on a walk, and Elliot falls asleep.
    • At last, jack is able to sleep.
    • When he wakes up, "everything has washed away" and he is "perfectly normal again." "I still can't understand it," he writes.
    • By now, "all the dark torture is a memory."
    • He knows that they'll be OK, that Billie won't commit suicide or kill her child, that he'll forgive everyone, that he'll finally make his way back home to New York "and it'll all be like it was in the beginning – simple golden eternity blessing all."
    • He imagines that, when he does get home, his mother will be waiting for him. And the place in the corner of the yard where his cat is buried "will be a new and fragrant shrine," and "Something good will come out of all things yet – And it will be golden and eternal just like that – There's no need to say another word."