Big Sur was written by Jack Kerouac in 1962. The book was published five years after his novel On the Road put him and the Beat Generation in the national spotlight.
The “Beat” in Beat Generation was defined by Kerouac himself as having several meanings, including musical, beaten down and fatigued, and spiritually beatific or serene. Members of the Beat Generation were generally very free spirited, who accepted new and loose ideas regarding drugs and alcohol, music, writing, and sex. They were generally tired of societal confines and aimed to create their own unique lives. Kerouac writes in a very open and loose style, with free-association thinking, little concern for grammar, and a focus on fluidity and rhythm; its prose is typical of the Beat Generation.
By the time Kerouac wrote Big Sur, though, he was beaten down from years of drugs and alcohol coupled with the stress of fame from writing On the Road. Big Sur talks about a decidedly darker period in his life where he experiences the negative aspects of his freedom. It is an autobiographical work, with alter egos substituting for Kerouac himself and people in his life.