I am delighted with the honorary co-chairmanship of this event by David Amram and Carolyn Cassady, two wonderful and warm hearted contemporaries of Jack Kerouac. And I am gratified with the enthusiastic response shown by the people of San Francisco, New York, Lowell and Orlando - in particular organizers Marsha Garland, Dariana Hayward, James Stauffer, Jack Foley, Marty Cummins, Loren Ford and Lawrence Carradini - to the idea of celebrating Jack Kerouac's great book, BIG SUR.

Jack Kerouac is of course known around the world for his youthful book ON THE ROAD, written in the fifties about being young and uninhibited and unconventional and free. It's an American classic, and the movement it spawned helped transform American culture and continues to do so. Kerouac is increasingly recognized as a major figure in 20th century American literature, and it is exciting to see communities across America celebrate him as one of their own.

Less well known are his other accomplishments as a literary innovator and as an author, in particular with this insightful novel. BIG SUR. Written nearly a decade after ON THE ROAD, it is notable for its mature concerns - mid-life issues of mortality, the limits of personal attainment, and the place of the individual in the cosmos. Kerouac treats these themes with power, accomplishment, and an unusually honest and direct manner in this exceptional book. I think I am not alone when I say that BIG SUR merits wider attention - not only in that it concerns itself with far different issues than those in ON THE ROAD - but for the writing. It is an unusually honest, direct, and effective work, written with energy and pyrotechnics. His descriptions of a mental breakdown and fearful interaction with the natural environment are particularly evocative and compelling.

And the book's climactic scene, in which Kerouac faces these issues head on in a penultimate moment in the woods surrounding the Big Sur cabin he is visiting, and finds a transcendant resolution to his crisis, is unforgettable. Kerouac argues, in a moment of spiritual clarity, how any of us, no matter how flawed - by accepting mortality and the impermanance of the individual in the world - may face the human dilemma with courage and grace.

In this concluding moment to the novel, Kerouac offers to readers a message of hope and reconciliation which in his life and work he paid for dearly.

It is particularly fitting that this book is being celebrated now, as the career and accomplishments of Jack Kerouac continue to inspire not only the young people of America, but also those of another generation, the Baby Boom generation who were moved by his work early in their lives, and whose lives are approaching denouement.

-George Wallace