Brain Pickings

One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur

by

What literary genius has to do with indie music icons, a cabin, and San Francisco.

Jack Kerouac was perhaps the last big literary rock star. The avatar of the Beat movement, he skyrocketed into success in the late 50′s after the triumphant debut of his groundbreaking novel, On The Road. But, by 1960, Kerouac had fallen victim to his own success, unraveling into addiction, depression, cynicism and a jaded disaffection Beat culture. After a tortured attempt at spiritual revival in Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin, Kerouac wrote the gritty semi-autobiographical novel Big Sur.

This year, director Curt Worden takes us back to that cabin and to the Beat haunts of San Francisco and New York City in One Fast Move Or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur — a cinematic journey into the events the book is based on. Narrated by John Ventimiglia of The Sopranos fame, the film stars some of Kerouac’s iconic contemporaries — writers, poets, actors and musicians, including Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Joyce Johnson, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, and Sam Shepard — whose first-hand accounts and reflections come to life in a stunning selection of high-def visual imagery.

But what caught our attention about this film in the first place was its extraordinary soundtrack, an inspired collaboration between Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Jay Ferrar of Son Volt. Recorded over the course of three days in the cabin Kerouac wrote about, the original score is coupled with haunting, intimate lyrics taken straight from the pages of Big Sur — a melodic contemplation of this powerful story of epic talent and epic collapse.

Today, the film opens in theaters and the gem of a soundtrack becomes available on appropriately classy vinyl with DVD. But, if you’d still rather have bits over atoms, you can snag it in good ol’ mp3 form, too.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

Share on Tumblr