Doctor Sax and the Great World Snake

Doctor Sax and the Great World Snake Special MultiMedia Edition
includesCd Audio Version Of The Screenplay
Unabridged Origional Screenplay Text
Illustrations By Richard Sala

Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac on March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts. Jack Kerouac's writing career began in the 1940s, but didn't meet with commercial success until 1957, when On the Road was published. The book became an American classic that defined the Beat Generation. Kerouac died on October 21, 1969, from an abdominal hemorrhage, at age 47.


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  • Audio CD
  • Doctor Sax and the Great World Snake
  • Jack Kerouac
  • English
  • 01 July 2019

10 thoughts on “Doctor Sax and the Great World Snake

  1. says:

    26th book of 2020.

    I'm reading a lot of Kerouac at the moment; this is my 7th. You may imagine my excitement then, on finding that this is Kerouac's own favourite of all of his work, and my edition has a quote from Time that reads: Kerouac's best book.

    It is not. I'm sorry Jack, but this was mostly nonsense to me. There were some good lines, you can't help that, but on the whole, nonsense. About Doctor Sax and his big cape, and a Castle and vampires and a giant snake that wants to what, eat the world, or something?

    Kerouac wrote this whilst staying in Mexico City with William S. Burroughs - I imagine a lot of drugs were used in its making. I also read somewhere (can't remember where) that Kerouac stopped chapters because Burroughs had simply walked into room in real life, so he wrapped up and ended where he was. Madness. I respect it, in an odd way. But it didn't make for a very good book. Though Kerouac says this is his favourite, out of the 7 I have read so far, this is the worst. Sorry. We disagree on something.

  2. says:

    Forget, for the moment, about On the Road: anyone about to read Kerouac should start here. Dr. Sax is the crystallization of Kerouac’s creative integrity and vision. Here, his style is unencumbered by the editorial “corrections” that helped make On the Road a best-seller, but compromised its thematic execution – and the imagination that produced the mythical Dr. Sax is the same that, in the guise of Sal Paradise, seeks redemption. Here, revealed in its purest realization, is the source of the loss and desperation that haunt On the Road, and lead to the physical, emotional and creative breakdown in Big Sur. As a portrayal of imagination and its inevitable, universal loss, it’s an inspirational heartbreak.

  3. says:

    Oh God--what a magnificent book with language so beautiful that I have to gasp between sentences. Kerouac himself said it was his personal favorite (while drunk during an interview for Italian tv). No one--I mean, no one--has ever captured the terrible magic and mystery of childhood lost better than Ti Jean.

  4. says:

    It took me a couple of times to get through Dr. Sax. Kerouac is my favorite and I feel a crazy connection with him, but for heaven's sake...

    You can tell that this was written when he was hanging out with stupid, trippy Burroughs. It has a lot of the Electric Kool-Aid test in it - as in disturbing imagery, nonsense alliteration, etc.

    The times that I really started to enjoy it was when he left the Dr. Sax part (even though the imagery of the great snake, that might be made up of doves, is something that is very haunting to me)and talked more about his childhood, what it's like to be a kid. Kerouac has such an amazing memory that all those weird little mind games that every kid grows out of, he's able to remember and portray on paper.

  5. says:

    Thing is, most of Kerouac's work is not linear and neat and tidy. It's poorly punctuated stream-of-consciousness, skipping from image to image to emotion to sensation. So if you think you like Kerouac because you liked On the Road, you may not like this book. And if you only like Kerouac when he's writing traditionally crafted fiction, then maybe you just don't like Kerouac.

    Not all of Kerouac's books deserve 4 or 5 stars, but this one earned it. The genius of it is that he recounts--as if he were still a child--the moments in his childhood when he realized his childhood was ending, and that "Dr. Sax" was coming to carry him away into the rest of his life. Losing a prize marble, surviving a devastating flood as others suffered, watching a man die, finally plucking up the courage to take a midnight trip through town to explore the ruined haunted house he'd always feared and wondered about--these are the moments that Kerouac hangs his story on. And he does so by recalling them using a child's unlimited sense of imagination.

    Yes, it's a difficult read, but I think half the thing that makes it difficult for some people is that they go into it with the wrong expectations. Don't expect On the Road or even Visions of Cody. Expect to enter the mind of a child who sees vampires and ghosts and monsters... as well as beauty and poetry and life.

  6. says:

    Seems like Jack Kerouac can go wrong after all. This novel showed me personally how wonderful ideas do not automatically guarantee a wonderful story.



    In a lot of ways, Doctor Sax is as pure as writing can get. It feels raw, unpolished, honest. On an emotional level, this makes it extremely personal; from a reader point's of view, however, ... boring. Kerouac has always phrased his thoughts in a stream-of-consciousness style, yet I personally prefer his stories after their fair share of editing.

    It's a shame, since the ideas here are lovely. Kerouac has named this his favorite out of his own books and I can see why. In it, he reconstructs his childhood. We see the world through the eyes of a child, somebody on the verge to growing up. For the moment, however, the world is still full of magic as well as beauty and unexplored secrets. If only it wasn't such a drag to get through it. Childhood certainly didn't feel like that.

  7. says:

    This was a sad read for me, marking the time in my life when I definitively fell out of love with Kerouac. There are, to be sure, flashes of brilliance in Dr. Sax, but the overall meandering stream of consciousness (this time trying to recapture his adolescence) left me underwhelmed, without an authentic point of connection. Kerouac, for me, now becomes one of those authors that I like the idea of, more than the reality of reading their work.

  8. says:

    The subtitle of the novel is “Faust Part Three”. The scene is Textile town - working class blue collar drudge-filled. Beyond the dark woods and the brown-ominous serpentine Merrimac River lies the Castle, near the corner of Bridge and 16th, including vampire Count Condu flown from Budapest, and mysterious green-faced creeping caped Doctor Sax from Butte, all haunting Jack Kerouac’s childhood and memories in Lowell.

    This is an awesome read, filled alternately with sad incredibly effective nostalgia, heart warming scenes of affection, love, community and friendship, sudden unexpected humor, and the haunting fears of youth. I have never experienced as much emotion from a book as this one. It is a treasure, and a surprise to me, as I’d never heard of Dr. Sax until I decided to read the Duluoz series.

    Kerouac is definitely channeling a bit of Joyce, and there are a few tedious parts, but much of it is glorious loopy language, or rhythmic sound and pacing, that somehow induces emotion and feeling, and personally, conjured many memories from my own childhood and neighborhood, and of a 1930's youth that echoes my own father's stories from the same era and location.

    Here’s a simpler example, without the Joyce or memories, but it does portray the sound, rhythm and theme: “Tragedies of darkness hid in the shadows all around Textile - the waving hedges hid a ghost, a past, a future, a shuddering spirit specter full of anxious blackish sinuous twiny night torture - the giant orangebrick smokestack rose to the stars, a little black smoke came out - below, a million tittering twit leaves and jumping shadows - I have such a hopeless dream of walking or being there at night, nothing happens, I just pass, everything is unbearably over with...” (p.57)

    Unbearably over with because he’s facing the end of childhood’s hope, free play and imagination, and entering the “horrible adult routine world” of dashed hopes, disappointment and the death of friends and family. To elucidate the contrast, Dr. Sax forewarns him, “You’ll come to rages you never dreamed...lonely romages among Beast of Day in hot glary circumstances made grit by the hour of the clock - that is known as Civilization... You’ll grow numb all over from inner paralytic thoughts, and bad chairs, - that is known as Solitude... You’ll inch along the ground on the day of your death and be pursued... - that is known as nightmares... you’ll never be as happy as you are now in your quiltish innocent book-devouring boyhood immortal night.” (p 202-203)

    Soon after, the ghoulish Doctor Sax takes the boy on a haunted tour of the neighborhood, peeking in windows and spying on neighbors, much like Scrooge’s ghostly tour of the Past, Present and future. The boy’s life is about to change forever, due to mythic Earthquake, Flood, and the demise of his youth and innocence. The Flooding of Textile scene, in particular, may be the best of the mythic parts of the novel, and includes the adult fears and panic of such a deluge, along with the joys and exuberance of youthful awe.

    Again, the book isn’t without its flaws - it took me at least 20 pages to get beyond my initial skepticism, and the ending sequence could have been shorter, but in all, actually, this is my favorite Kerouac book so far, out of four (five, actually). I reacted personally, hence the 5 stars as opposed to 4. I'd recommend this highly to any good reader - it's worth it, even if you rate it a 3.

  9. says:

    This actually applies to the audio-play (best I can describe a screenplay turned into an audiobook).

    Well, it was interesting. Not bad, and it's hard to complain too much about a work that's that short. It would have been a fairly good kid's fantasy story along the lines of something Neil Gaiman might have written, except Kerouac was deliberately messy with the narrative and added a lot of unnecessary strange language. Of course, the reason this is called "Dr. Sax" instead of "Dr. Violin" is that we're talking jazz here, not classical music. He improvises on top of his basic structure. It's actually not bad, but it's not exceptionally good either.

    It's still something I'd recommend given how little effort it would take.

  10. says:

    Dr. Sax is a cool, surreal and proficient beat novel. The narrative dream logic glides through a world of magical realism surrounding the protagonist's life. Beautiful, sometimes profane, always interesting, I consider this Kerouac's best. A potent flight of the imagination.

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