For over a hundred years, Big Sur has been a fertile area for artistic advancements. A variety of authors have immortalized the region with the written word. Make your journey down Big Sur Coast Highway a pilgrimage of American literature. Stop in at museums and libraries dedicated to writers and their craft, visit sites immortalized in the pages of literature, and walk in the footsteps of your favorite authors. In the late 19th century, Robert Louis Stevenson lived briefly in the area, followed by John Steinbeck, Henry Miller, and Jack Kerouac, among others. Unlike many areas honored in literature, Big Sur remains relatively unchanged over the years.
"Here at Big Sur, at a certain time of the year and a certain time of the day only, a pale blue-green hue pervades the distant hills; it is an old, nostalgic hue, it is a mystical phenomenon, or so I like to think, born of a certain way of looking at the world."
In 1957, Henry Miller added his take on Big Sur when he wrote Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch, a story of Miller's life among other notable authors, artists, and intellectuals in an alternative artist community. In the Henry Miller Library, you can peruse rare copies of his books, view original paintings, and listen to readings from his works. The home to open poetry readings, an annual children's writing workshop, and several exhibits, put the library on the top of your list of stops while traveling the Big Sur Coast Highway.
"I am told that a little quiver of terror has crept through old Salinas at the project. I am on no punitive expedition. I just want it straight."
Though perhaps unpopular when he wrote East of Eden, John Steinbeck's legacy is now synonymous with the Big Sur area. Known as Steinbeck Country, the cities of Monterey, Carmel and Salinas on the northern end of the byway brim with memories of John Steinbeck's legacy. Visit Cannery Row in Monterey, made famous by the novel of the same name. In the neighboring town of Salinas pay homage to the man at his childhood home or at the National Steinbeck Center. Using Steinbeck's writings as a basis, the center portrays the Big Sur area's history, culture and unique lifestyle with a variety of exhibits.
"And it's finally only in the woods you get that nostalgia for "cities" at last, you dream of long gray journeys to cities where soft evenings'll unfold like Paris but seeing how sickening it will be because of the primordial innocence of health and stillness in the wilds, so I tell myself, 'Be Wise.'"
Jack Kerouac, disillusioned by the fame he earned after On the Road hit shelves and defined a generation, sought refuge from his home in Long Island to write his book Big Sur. In the novel, Kerouac's autobiographical character attempts to find solace in a friend's cabin in what is considered to be Bixby Canyon. Spend an evening on the beach and listen for the poetry he heard in the waves. Read the book among the steep cliffs and crashing ocean tides, a fitting locale for a tumultuous tale of tragedy and descent.
- Copyright © December 14, 2007 heyjupiter of flickr.com.
- Copyright © October 25, 2008 Kent Kanouse.
- Public domain. Photo by Martha Alejandre