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Big SurThe Making of a Prized California Landscape$
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Shelley Alden Brooks

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520294417

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520294417.001.0001

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Big Sur: Utopia, U.S.A.?

Big Sur: Utopia, U.S.A.?

Chapter:
(p.56) Three Big Sur: Utopia, U.S.A.?
Source:
Big Sur
Author(s):

Shelley Alden Brooks

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520294417.003.0004

The West that emerged in the postwar era—a rapidly growing, suburban, industrialized, consumer-oriented region—shaped American culture, and this culture became the foil against which Henry Miller and many others imagined Big Sur. Big Sur sat perched at the literal—and, increasingly, at the figurative—edge of the United States, and its cultural significance grew as the state continued to flourish. Chapter 3 examines the efforts from inside and out to paint Big Sur as a place apart but also as a hyper-representation of California complete with an exceptional landscape, a relatively young and flexible culture, a compelling lifestyle, and a place of perceived personal freedom. Ironically, this freedom and flexibility thrived within the zoning parameters established by Monterey County. A growing number of the diverse inhabitants of Big Sur, including the beatniks—drawn by Jack Kerouac—the artists, the professionals, and the upper-class residents, all shared at least one quality: they possessed social privilege and could use this capital to work with county officials to protect their haven from becoming one more commercialized coastal strip.

Keywords:   West, postwar, utopia, beatniks, Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, Big Sur, privilege, lifestyle

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