Introducing Fall 2014


BIG SUR, 1961


Myth, Legend
or Outright Lies?


In the 1960s, Big Sur attracted many writers and artists who shaped the Beat Generation. People like Henry Miller, Edward Weston, Richard Brautigan, Hunter S. Thompson, Emile Norman and Jack Kerouac found this sleepy town, just two hours south of San Francisco, ideal to disconnect from the world. The terrain was wild (and incredibly isolated) where days could go by with only sightings of deer or mountain lions. Because of its famous residents, Big Sur’s reputation grew as a cultural force and destination. But in reality, the vast landscape was the perfect place to escape the dark side of fame.

“The Edge...there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”


By 1961, Henry Miller’s banned, smut-filled books from his Tropics series had found their way into the US and the free-spirited Bohemians descended on Big Sur looking for Miller and the sexual mecca they assumed he’d manufactured. Hundreds of people struggled up the steep dirt path to his small house on Partington Ridge seeking Miller’s orgies. Half of Greenwich Village camped out on his front lawn but Miller refused to deliver.

Instead of fornication carnivals, the majority found the quiet to be insufferable (and dull). After living in hollowed trees and abandoned shacks; roaming the hills with sleeping bags and living on nuts and mustard greens, they gave up and continued to migrate south to LA.

In spite of the invasion, Miller found what he had been looking for. In his essay “Big Sur, This is My Answer” he wrote, “Mornings on Partington Ridge I would often go to the cabin door on rising, look out over the rolling velvety hills, filled with such contentment, such gratitude that instinctively my hand went up in a benediction.”

Long before "Fear and Loathing", in 1960, Hunter S. Thompson hitchhiked across the United States along U.S. Hwy 40, ultimately ending in Big Sur, working as a caretaker and security guard at the Big Sur hot springs. He published his first magazine feature in Rogue magazine about Henry Miller and the artisan and bohemian culture. The unexpected publicity got him fired from his job and he ultimately wrote two novels "Prince Jellyfish" and "The Rum Diary" with limited success. Thompson cautioned those who dared to reside in Big Sur when he wrote in one of his short stories, “If you are coming here to look for support, you are in for a bad time.”

Ultimately, Miller went back to Paris. Thompson moved to LA. Kerouac drove to SF. Leaving Big Sur’s legend of divine inspiration and spiritual awakening to live on in their short stories, articles and novels.

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.”


“The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we never give enough of is love.”