Big Sur Sound and Story, our new audio listening series, is featured in the New York Times!

Holy moly! Our upcoming Big Sur Sound and Story audio listening series, which begins Sunday at 8 pm, was featured in the The New York Times!!!

Check it out HERE!!  Or read it now!

“OK, you have an hour at your disposal,” says Magnus Toren, on the phone from Big Sur, Calif. “You’re in the dark. You’re steps from the Pacific Ocean, lying in the grass under a grove of redwoods, and all you can see are the stars overhead. What do you want to hear?”

This is the governing principle behind Big Sur Sound and Story, a Sunday night outdoor spoken-narrative series launching this summer at the Henry Miller Memorial Library, where Toren has served as executive director for what he calls a “frighteningly long time,” since 1993.

photo by Terry Way
photo by Terry Way

A rotating cast of curators from popular podcasts and shows like the Moth,the Kitchen SistersWireTap and Third Coast Audio will create programming that includes both fictional and purportedly true tales. “It all unravels from this idea that when you listen to a really well-told story, it’s something from which you can’t extract yourself,” says Toren. “In a mysterious way I think this tradition is deeply rooted in us — it goes back thousands of years. Listening to stories read aloud is a way of getting to a place deep within ourselves.”

Big Sur seems to have that same effect on its visitors. One can only imagine the spoken-word stories that might have sprung from the California coastal region in the ’60s, when Jack Kerouac spent a few weeks with delirium tremens in his friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s cabin and lived to tell the tale in his novel “Big Sur.” It was around then that Hunter S. Thompson, after being fired as a security guard of what’s now the Esalen Institute retreat center (née Big Sur Hot Springs), wrote in Rogue magazine that “almost everything you hear about Big Sur is rumor, legend or flat-out lie. This place is a mythmaker’s paradise, so vast and so varied and so beautiful that the imagination of the visitor is tempted to run wild at the sight of it.”

Back in 1944, Henry Miller, whose “Tropic of Cancer” was still banned in the U.S., and who had recently wrapped up the epic American road trip that would become his novel “Air Conditioned Nightmare,” probably did run a little wild. Regardless, he lingered for so long in Big Sur that, even though he spent his final years elsewhere, the idiosyncratic institution that still bears his name is located here, tucked into one of the hairpin curves along Highway 1.

Once the home of an artist friend of Miller’s, today the house contains the writer’s paintings, copies of his papers and books, some for sale, along with works by his contemporaries and others. There is free coffee; there are weekly film screenings and frequent concerts (the already sold-out Woodsist festival, featuring Real Estate, Woods, Angel Olsen and Kevin Morby, happens in August; the Pixies played earlier this spring); there is a resident cat, Theo, of indeterminate age and origin.

It all makes for an ideal setting in which to experience the art of narrative. “My own favorite story from here?” Toren asks. “Oh, there’ve been so many extraordinary little moments. Like the time my motorcycle crashed and a girl took me up the mountainside and took care of me. That was 30 years ago, and I’ve never left.”

Big Sur Sound and Story will be held at the Henry Miller Memorial Library every Sunday from June 15 to Aug. 24; doors open at 8 p.m. and stories begin at sunset; donations are encouraged. For more information, or to submit your own story for consideration, visit

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