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The Dharma Bums Paperback – May 27 1971
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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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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I really had fun reading this. I enjoyed it more than On the Road, though it had less pressure.Published 3 months ago by Pete
No flowery symbolism left for the reader to interpret, no condescending generalizations thrown around, and nothing but pure spirit and energy in this trip through landscapes and... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Patrick Wodhams
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
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 morePublished on Aug. 26 2008 by Kieran Fox
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 morePublished on Oct. 6 2006 by Manny F.
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 morePublished on May 10 2006 by Ghoulish
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 morePublished on March 16 2004 by firstname.lastname@example.org
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