They realize that he wrote the book while living here, in Ferlighetti’s cabin down in Bixby Canyon, but they are occasionally unfamiliar with the context.
In other words, people understandably assume it’s some sort of romantic, evocative travelogue, a la “Travels with Charley’ or even “Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch.”
I mean, it certainly has the elements of romance, but more than anything, its a portrait of a dude melting down.
Jack attempted to find some solace in the mountains after “On the Road” made him an unwanted celebrity, but as the book documents, he couldn’t outrun his demons. And because of that – and because of the stark and harrowing honesty therein – it’s a brave and powerful book. No one before (or since) has laid out their psychological breakdown in such agonizing detail.
There’s an ironic and tragic scene in the book where Jack tries – and fails – to hitch a ride up the California coast. All these hippies, driving around living the Beat-ish life that he embodies – drove right past him.
So, not the most uplifting piece of literature out there, but certainly one of the most challenging and rewarding.