Where did author Jack Kerouac go to escape the legend that came with his life "on the road?" Big Sur. He holed up in a cabin along this vast stretch of California coast for over a month in 1960, desperate to find some inner peace while struggling with fame and alcohol addiction. He chronicled the experience in his novel Big Sur, one of his lesser known autobiographical works that now—40 years after Kerouac passed away on October 21, 1969—is coming to life in a new documentary film.
One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur, directed by Curt Worden, includes interviews with Kerouac experts and enthusiasts like Patti Smith and Tom Waits, but the landscape takes center stage. Describing its effect on Kerouac after a recent screening in New York, writer Joyce Johnson, one of his former girlfriends who appears in the film, said it's "so immense that it's also absolutely crushing. You could feel so small...on the edge of that roaring black sea."
My favorite part of the movie? The soundtrack. Jay Farrar of country-rock group Son Volt and Ben Gibbard of indie-pop outfit Death Cab for Cutie—both big Kerouac fans (Gibbard even stayed in the same Bixby Canyon cabin to write songs for his band's 2008 album)—composed 12 original alt-country tracks that use lines from the novel as lyrics. The duo performed them last night at Largo at the Coronet in Los Angeles; they'll hit Washington D.C.'s 9:30 Club on October 27, and New York's Webster Hall on October 28.
Meanwhile, the film is playing in limited release this week at select theaters across the nation, and you can buy a collector's box set including the CD, DVD, novel, and a 24-page booklet with previously unpublished photos of Kerouac ($50).
Christine Ajudua is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.