Big Sur describes Kerouac’s decent into insanity, which is why I read the book in the first place, but there is very little of what I would call insanity in the book. It’s still an interesting book; I don’t think Kerouac could write a bad novel if he wanted to. But I just assumed it would start off with him going insane and have 200+ pages of waking dream type stuff.
The events described in Big Sur take place after the events in Desolation Angels (I believe), Kerouac tells how he is becoming sick and tired of his beatnik fame and decided to get away from everything by going up to a friends cabin in Big Sur. The idea was to just get away from everything and cleans his soul, but loneliness and cheap wine go the better of him so Kerouac heads back to the city.
There he visits old friends and drinks himself closer and closer to death. And the things that made him come back to the city soon drive him back to the cabin in Big Sur.
Before the madness takes hold Cody Pomeray (AKA Dean Moriarty) introduces Jack to his mistress Billie (who has a son) when they meet Jack is drunk and they instantly connect, for a while, if you’ve read the book then you know Billie would drive a Priest to cuss, but at the same time, from the description in the book she was a drop dead knockout and a joy to sleep with, so I guess you come out even.
Anyway, towards the end Billie, her son, and friends joined Jack at Big Sur, where Jack continued to drink himself closer to death, and it’s here that the paranoia starts to set in, Jack begins to suspect that everyone is against him, even Billie’s son. And he begins his decent into madness for about a day, his mind snaps and then it snaps back, it’s a little anti-climatic but still pretty good.