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The Dharma Bums [Paperback]

Jack Kerouac
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 1971
One of the best and most popular of Kerouac's autobiographical novels, The Dharma Bums is based on experiences the writer had during the mid-1950s while living in California, after he'd become interested in Buddhism's spiritual mode of understanding. One of the book's main characters, Japhy Ryder, is based on the real poet Gary Snyder, who was a close friend and whose interest in Buddhism influenced Kerouac.

Frequently Bought Together

The Dharma Bums + On the Road + Howl and Other Poems
Price For All Three: CDN$ 33.49

  • On the Road CDN$ 12.27
  • Howl and Other Poems CDN$ 8.95

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One of the best and most popular of Kerouac's autobiographical novels, The Dharma Bums is based on experiences the writer had during the mid-1950s while living in California, after he'd become interested in Buddhism's spiritual mode of understanding. One of the book's main characters, Japhy Ryder, is based on the real poet Gary Snyder, who was a close friend and whose interest in Buddhism influenced Kerouac. This book is a must-read for any serious Kerouac fan.

About the Author

Jack Kerouac(1922-1969), the central figure of the Beat Generation, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922 and died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969. Among his many novels are On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and Visions of Cody.

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First Sentence
Hopping a freight out of Los Angeles at high noon one day in late September 1955 I got on a gondola and lay down with my duffel bag under my head and my knees crossed and contemplated the clouds as we rolled north to Santa Barbara. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth every penny! Aug. 14 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Man, I don't know where to start. "The Dharma Bums" is a masterpiece of the Beat Generation and a novel I will not soon forget. After The Loser's Club by Richard Perez, this is the best book I've read all year.
Jack Kerouac wrote this story about his days as a Zen Buddhist and rucksack wanderer. His alias in the book is Raymond Smith, and he is living in Berkley with his good buddy Alvah Goldbook(Allen Ginsburg). Ray meets a Zen Lunatic named Japhy Ryder(Gary Snyder), and together they travel the mountains and pastures of Central California trying to find themselves and find the true meaning of life. Ray also journies to Desolation Peak in Washington and lives there alone for the summer, which is just another chapter to this amazing piece of literature.
Another part of this book that impressed me was the beginning, when Kerouac wrote about his experience at the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, and spoke of Alvah Goldbook's first reading of his poem "Wail", which in reality was Allen Ginsburg's legendary first reading of "Howl", which to this day is a Beat Literature classic.
While reading this book, I was constantly marking lines and passages, because some of the descriptions and poetry Kerouac included in this novel are simply amazing. "The Dharma Bums" is one of those books I will treasure forever and read over and over again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I hold a great deal of interest in the beat writers and have read a variety of novels from the likes of Burroughs and have read a few books from Ginsberg. Kerouac is undoubtedly the most talented of the three big guns of the Beats.

Kerouac's writing is poetry. The simultaneous amalgam of vivid and surreal scenes gives literally every sentence a touch of beauty. I can not get over how well written this book was. Kerouac could not have crafted better sentences and rambled sections.

The one problem I had with this book was that, really, not a lot happened. It is essentially 200 pages of Ray and Japhy walking through woods, climbing mountains and waxing philosophical and Buddhist. I love nature, trees, woods, forests and lakes, and have a deep rooted connection to the rural lifestyle having come from a town noted only for its scenery and natural beauty, and my own grandfather literally lived in the woods for a large portion of his life and we still visit the place of his home now, years after the house burnt down and the government swindled the land from him. I love this sort of thing. However, it does get tedious to read over 200 pages. I actually put the book down for 6 months.

Also, I find the book a little self-congratulatory. Kerouac spends a great deal of time essentially saying how awesome it is to be a dharma bum like he and his companions. Sure, it does seem like a life-altering experience, but it does become grating after a while.

Still, a classic beautiful novel that has one of the greatest endings I've ever read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars On the Road with The Dharma Bums July 14 2004
By LMO
Format:Paperback
I first met Kerouac in the early 70s, when I was finishing my sentence in college. He inspired me to actually go on the road and hitch hike across the country several times (something I would no longer recommend). I learned about America through Jack. Dharma Bums taught me that there was another side to thought and life than the ones I had been living. While he himself was self destructive, I have incorporated many of his philosophies thorughout my lfe, and continue to search for truth and beauty, even while amid lies and ugliness. Trying to explain Dharma Bums and its philosophies to my teenage daughter is a trip. She just looks at me as though I'd lost my mind, which I no doubt did years ago when I first ran in to the stories of Kerouac. It's sad to think that the ideas and lifestyles he enshrines are dying out, if not dead all ready. Anyone looking for a boost into the beat world, or an explanation for what made it so "in" 50 years ago would best be advised to read Dharma Bums, and On The Road. Nuff said.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A cool drink May 3 2004
Format:Paperback
DHARMA BUMS came out a year after ON THE ROAD. While the latter is the beat manifesto celebrating the peripatetic lifestyle, BUMS focuses on the beat romance with Buddhist enlightenment and the building of an inner life. ON THE ROAD was an instant, memorable success, and while BUMS no doubt fed a desire for more of the same, it stands apart, its own satisfying work of art, its own way of sending telegraphs from the heart of the beat movement. Many of the episodes are based on actual events and experiences that were still fresh memories as the book was written.
Ray Smith is the first person narrator of DHARMA BUMS, a look alike for Jack Kerouac. For most of the book, he slyly puts Japhy Ryder at the center of attention. Ryder is a stand-in for poet Gary Snyder who survives, who as a young man in his twenties was already a natural leader. Surrounding them are other familiar figures from the era, including Alvah Goldbook (translates to Allen Ginsberg). They all write poetry and love jazz, women, and a casual lifestyle. They seek spiritual enlightenment. They delight in trolling for clothes in the Good Will and Army and Navy stores, they savor the simplest meal over a campfire. They are the Dharma Bums, rejecting the paralyzed emptiness they ascribe to middle class life.
I really like this book. The prose is clear and concrete, even when sorting through abstract notions. It is often funny. Kerouac had extraordinary insight into individual nuances and desires, and plays them into the tension of the journey and the sorting out. He had a gift for seeing how outsiders might perceive him and his crowd and how history might come to interpret the present he was portraying.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Shape
Although it took way longer than the estimated ship date to arrive, the book was in great shape.
Published on Sept. 23 2009 by L. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Phenomenal
Kerouac and Snyder were way ahead of their time, and this book details some of the reasons why. Zen Buddhism is old hat these days, but that these guys were wandering around... Read more
Published on Aug. 26 2008 by Kieran Fox
5.0 out of 5 stars Kerouac again
Like ON THE ROAD, this book is a bit of a time capsule. More "Zen-like" than ON THE ROAD, Kerouac's Ray Smith (the narrator of DHARMA BUMS) is a dead ringer for Mr. K. Read more
Published on Oct. 6 2006 by Manny F.
4.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening
Most likely the best Kerouac book other than On The Road, Kerouac is at his best, eloquant yet unafraid of using colloquialisms to establish a believable atmosphere. Read more
Published on May 10 2006 by Ghoulish
5.0 out of 5 stars one of kerouac's finest
I've heard it said that this is Kerouac's greatest novel. I still say that honor is held by On the Road, but this book is just as good. And it is his most spiritual novel. Read more
Published on March 16 2004 by adead_poet@hotmail.com
5.0 out of 5 stars the kerouacian
dharma bums by far kerouac's best work. a wonderful display of his spontaneous prose style and immense compassion for others.
Published on March 9 2004 by bashopoem
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding freedom at last
Jack Kerouac and his friends were a part of a group of individuals who were known in the early 1950's as "The Beat Generation. Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2004 by IRA Ross
2.0 out of 5 stars Kerouac is not that great
Maybe I am not as enlightened as all of you, but I don't think this book is all that great. Kerouac is often completely incoherent. Much of what is said is nonsense. Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2004 by Anthony S. Melton
3.0 out of 5 stars Zen Man On a Mountain
Westerners tend to have under-adjusted encounters with Buddhism, because they are usually attached to the 'idea' of their being detached-- a fallacy because Buddhism asserts the... Read more
Published on Dec 5 2003 by Jimmy Chen
4.0 out of 5 stars Beat Buddhist at Large
This is probably one of the best samplers of the religious beliefs and lifestyle experimentation as practiced by the Beats. Read more
Published on Oct. 24 2003 by doomsdayer520
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