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Desolation Angels Paperback – Sep 1 1995

4.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (Sept. 1 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573225053
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573225052
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #51,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"Kerouac was a breath of fresh air when he came on the literary scene. He was also a force, a tragedy, a triumph, and an ongoing influence, and that influence is still with us."
—Norman Mailer

"Kerouac ... defines the sensibilites of members of his own subgeneration: we knew them as wearing such guises as the Beat Generation, the Subterraneans, the Dharma Bums; now we see them as Desolation Angels, sadly pursuing their empty futilities..."
—Nelson Algren

"Each book by Kerouac is unique, a telepathic discord. Such rich natural writing is nonpareil in later 20th century, a synthesis of Proust, Celine, Thomas Wolfe, Hemingway, Genet, Thelonius Monk, Basho, Charlie Parker and Kerouac's own athletic sacred insight. Jack Kerouac was a 'writer' as his great peer William S. Burroughs says."
—Allen Ginsberg

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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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There are usually two types of Kerouac readers. There are the "On the Roaders", as I call them. The ones that enjoy his style, his way of placing his friend's lives into the context of their own troubles, their loneliness their love-- all the while with a literary pace likened to a old pickup speeding across the straightaways of the vacant Montana backroads. And then there are the others, who like the former, enjoy the style-- but they also look for the sadness in Kerouac's writing. His ability to deconstruct people with one look (in Des. Angels he watches a waitress in a bar and tells her entire life story in snapshot events that underlie the sad look in her eyes), to find the hidden sentiments in people's actions- whether he's right or wrong we really don't care.
Desolation Angels is the book for the second group of people. It is tortuous at times- like his solitude atop the mountain staring Hozomeen in the face every morning which reveals Kerouac's own struggle to deal with himself and his past. But I believe among all of his novels it is the most rewarding. The book takes us to all of his major haunts- London, New York, San Fran, Paris, the Mediterranean- with many of his closest friends - Neal, Allen, Williams S. Burroughs, Joyce. There's even a small part where Kerouac is face to face with Salvidore Dali.
If you are looking for Kerouac-the-humanist at his best- this is the novel for you. Where the novel lacks in adventure (On the Road) and joyous affirmation (dharma bums) it makes up in sheer descriptive character study and sad observation, of a man trying to grapple with what he sees as the emptiness of all things, and the sad reality of his own personal struggles with live, love, and death.
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Format: Paperback
I disagree with the 5-star consensus of the previous reviewers - Kerouac's writing is not 'faultless prose', as he characterizes it himself in this novel. But 'Desolation Angels' is another fascinating glimpse into the heart of this daring and nomadic - literally and spiritually - author. One star gets shaved from my review for the unfocused, enigmatic opening section of the book, 'Desolation in Solitude'. A rethinking of 'Alone on a Mountaintop' from 'Lonesome Traveler', this section only thickens the fog in both the reader and in the author, it seems. It's not that it rambles - all Kerouac's writing does, and to point it out as a flaw is like insisting that Bob Dylan's voice sucks. Of course it does, that's the point. But Kerouac characterized the Desolation Peak experience before and did it better in 'Lonesome Traveler'.
However, once Kerouac makes his descent and rejoins the world in the second half of Book One and through all of Book Two, the way that his mountaintop experience informs his perspective in places like New York, Mexico, and Europe is engrossing and surpisingly intelligent. Drawing from a wide variety of influences from St. Paul to Buddha to Hemingway, Kerouac revisits familiar places and people with a broadened and more cynical point of view. Desolation Angels is more candid, forthright, even explicit, than its predecessors about drug use and sex. But it also reveals a more exhaustive spiritual hunger in Kerouac, and leads the reader to conclude that the author, in his quest to meet God, realized he had indeed found Him.
By turns a thoughtful, pensive, funny and risk-taking novel, Desolation Angels is canonical Kerouac.
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Format: Paperback
I have been reading Kerouac for about twenty years (but still haven't exhausted the canon). After reading Desolation Angels I think it might still be a while.
You have got to love Kerouac to get through much of this book (and I do) and it is ultimately worth the effort, but what an effort! Too much of this book is "we did this, then we did that" and Kerouac's lack of contextualizing all this can get to you.
But there are always small epiphanies that make Kerouac worth reading. There are about six in this book, the best being his brief account of his sea voyage to Tangiers on a Yugoslav freighter in a storm. "It scares a seaman to hear the Kitchen scream in fear." And Kerouac's lamentation on the unfortunate popularization of the 'cool' ethos: "But all I could do was sit on the edge of the bed in despair listening to their awful 'likes' and 'like you know' and 'wow crazy'...All this was about to sprout out all over America even down to High School level and be attributed in part to my doing!"
Much of what makes Kerouac one of the American Big Three is that nobody else could get away with writing like this. It ain't pretty and it's often exasperating, but what a Great Soul.
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By A Customer on July 12 1996
Format: Paperback
From the moment I opened On the Road, I knew Jack Kerouac
wasn't just any author. A new spirit and new feelings, stirred
up by mere words...It doesn't happen often enough.
In that respect, Desolation Angels is typical Kerouac. The
incredibly flowing mad descriptions and details, his friends
as real as the stars, beautifully rendered real personalities.
From his isolation as a fire lookout, long time to be sober
for Kerouac, he jumps back into his old life...Drinking
screaming talking crazy friends Ginsberg Cassady et al. A
trip to Mexico, living above an old junky, Mexican women,
writing. Friends come to Mexico...you can imagine.
Tangier and William Burroughs, another junky...Kerouac helps
him, typing the manuscript of Naked Lunch (Nude Dinner, he
calls it, just like the other pseudonyms he assigns...)...
Back to the States, more of the wonderful same, always fresh
and exciting...But in the end, I was only surprised. He left
his Desolation Angels.
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