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The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

The Dharma Bums (1958)

by Jack Kerouac

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
Jack Kerouac said that "On the Road" was just the story of two Catholic boys searching for God. Maybe so, but it is a bastardized homo-erotic version of Catholicism (more so in the original 'scroll' edition). Not content to bastardize Christianity, Kerouac tells this tale of his exploration of Buddhism (semi-autobiographical novel).

I liked this book better than "On the Road." It is less rambling and more crafted. Of course Kerouac is trite and simplistic in his characterization of Buddhism. He is as misogynist as ever here. But I think this is the better novel and I appreciated somethings about it.

First of all, I think that what stands out to me is Kerouac's descriptions of people. Kerouac's protagonist (based on himself), is accepting and appreciative of most of the people he meets (if they are men, otherwise they tend to be playthings). I enjoyed the dialogue and some of Kerouac's descriptions of his surroundings. There is mountain climbing, hiking, hitchhiking, train rides and lots of conversation. The characters here, perhaps fueled by their spiritual explorations are less self absorbed than Kerouac's descriptions of On the Road (also an autobiographical novel).

So what of the Buddhism? I am absolutely fascinated by America's fascination with Buddhism. This novel kind of typifies the American Buddhist experience. They love how exotic it is, how wise it sounds, and love the longing for transcendence and the connection of all things. And then American Buddhists make Buddhism into what they want it to be (yet I know this is an over generalization). The sense is that whatever may actually be Buddhist is repackaged as Buddhism lite. This is the sort of thing you get here.

But one of the things I appreciated about Kerouac is he seems pretty aware of the contradictions in his 'Buddhism.' His characters preach detachment and enlightenment all the while using too much drugs, drinking too much and using women. This doesn't make their 'spiritual experiences' inauthentic, but it does prove that while these travelling dharma bums may be in some sense pilgrims, they don't make a lot of progress. The fact that Ray's big moment of enlightenment happens while he longs for a Hershey Bar, tells you that this is the American Consumer version of the whole Buddhist experience. ( )
  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
I liked it a bit less than "On the road", but still a great book. Not exceptional and awesome and brilliant, but definitely one of the better ones I've read in my life.
Left me with a lot of bits to think about and a lot of very vivid ideas. I love when books do that. ( )
  pchr8 | May 11, 2017 |
In this 1958 novel, Jack Kerouac explores Zen Buddhism. The novel is based on semi-autobiographical accounts of Jack Kerouac’s life after the success of his first novel, On The Road.
This story follows characters Ray Smith (based on Jack Kerouac) and Japhy Ryder (based on Gary Snyder) as they explore Zen Buddhism. Ray Smith and Japhy Ryder shift between the bustle of “city-life,” drunken parties, and Buddhist rituals to the serenity and tranquility of the outdoors and nature. Follow Ray Smith and Japhy Ryder as they travel around America in search of what it means to find peace through Zen Buddhism.

This was the first book I read by Jack Kerouac. After reading this book I became hooked on all literature from the Beat Generation. ( )
  ccarey2 | Nov 20, 2016 |
Ray Smith's story is driven by Japhy, whose penchant for the simple life and Zen Buddhism greatly influenced Kerouac on the eve of the sudden and unpredicted success of On the Road. The action shifts between the events of Smith and Ryder's "city life," such as three-day parties and enactments of the Buddhist "Yab-Yum" rituals, to the sublime and peaceful imagery where Kerouac seeks a type of transcendence. The novel concludes with a change in narrative style, with Kerouac working alone as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak (adjacent to Hozomeen Mountain), in what would soon be declared North Cascades National Park (see also Desolation Angels). These elements place The Dharma Bums at a critical junction foreshadowing the consciousness-probing works of several authors in the 1960s such as Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey.[citation needed] In an oddity, near the end of Chapter 23, there is this line: "I had a dollar left and Gary was waiting for me at the shack." Somehow both Kerouac and the editors missed that "Gary" was not changed to "Japhy."

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
Two lines in this book sum up Jack. In a vision near the end, he is told "You are empowered to remind people that they are utterly free". In the same paragraph he says to himself "Poor Jack, his day is so sorrowful and worried, his reasons are so ephemeral, it's such a haunted and pitiful thing to have to live". THERE - is the essence of Jack Kerouac.

The Dharma Bums is an utterly readable, and more honest account of Jack's time through life - less heady than On The Road, but still wild, and still stumbling, and still professing from the rooftops his mad half-rubbish and half-genius ramblings. I felt I got closer to his real thoughts in this. We meet another awesome hero of his (Gary Snyder), but this hero feels more real and likable.

On The Road shocked me to my very core at 17. It took some years before I found out Jack's whole life story ended trailed off so sadly - but for those years I held these mad heroes as statues in my head, and their wild enthusiasm for life seeped into my soul. Now at 24, On The Road seems a distant fantastic lovely dream, a little more hollow now, but still cherished. I wish I'd read the The Dharma bums at 21! That would have been just perfect timing. I think it was around then I decided that periodically giving into mad honest wild ecstasy to rejuvenate the soul wasn't going to work forever - I needed something mystical with which to combat the nothingness and emptiness unavoidable at the bottom of everything. So it turns out Jack must have gone through similar feelings, somewhere between On The Road and this. It's nice - but it's sad. I think I'll call it a day with Kerouac actually. I only see it going down from here.

- "I felt free and therefore I was free"
- "I saw that my life was a vast glowing page empty page and I could do anything I wanted."
- "Those who're good stay in Heaven, they've been in heaven the whole time"
- "...let the mind be-ware, that though the flesh be bugged, the circumstances of existence are pretty glorious"
( )
1 vote jculkin | Feb 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
I Dharma Bums jagter hovedpersonen og Kerouacs alter ego, Ray Smith, friheden i sandheden. Helten i ”Dharma Bums” er rykket naturen og Østens filosofi nærmere i søgen efter et liv, der hæver sig over den almindelig amerikansk konformisme og småborgerlighed. Det er denne turen på afveje, der har gjort Jack Kerouac til helgen og hans bøger til bibler for ensomme ulve i alle aldre ... Med sin messende, prisning af det enkle liv – visdommen i en bjergskrænt, en skål varm suppe, det lægende i den kølige morgenbrise og så videre – er Dharma Bums en hyldest til et liv hævet over materielt begær. Ray Smiths fortællertone er lige så slentrende, tilbagelænet og lige ud ad landevejen som det trip, han er ude på. Værsgo! – beretningen om en drifters vej til sandheden, nøgternt registrerende og uden domme, præcis som buddhismen foreskriver. Det er fedt.
added by 2810michael | editBørsen, Christa Leve Poulsen
Arne Herløv Petersens oversættelse af Kerouacs prosa glider ubesværet fremad i lange glidende bevægelser.
added by 2810michael | editWeekendavisen, Nikolaj M. Lassen
Sproglig er romanen fantastisk og ikke til at sætte en finger på overhovedet, et sanseligt og detaljerigt sprog, der kun kan sammenlignes med de store forfattere, Dostojevskij, Hamsun og man kommer også til at tænke på H. C. Andersen i alle de her myldrende beskrivelser, hvor alt er levende og hvor naturen i høj grad besynges og besjæles.
added by 2810michael | editDR Kulturnyt, Michael Halskov Christensen
Man kan glæde sig over, at Roskilde Bogcafé nu omsider har gjort dette hovedværk tilgængeligt for alle, der ønsker et indblik i beatgenerationens flirt med østlig filosofi.
added by 2810michael | editInformation, Lars Movin
Det er en stor og vigtig begivenhed, når det brave lille forlag Roskilde Bogcafé - med 42 års forsinkelse - udsender en af beatforfatteren Jack Kerouacs smukkeste, lettest tilgængelige og mest profetiske romaner på dansk ... Arne Herløv Petersen står bag denne fine fordanskning af Kerouacs saftige naturlyrik, swingende sproglige flow, rundtossede zen-lommefilosofi og heftige metaforiske energi.
added by 2810michael | editBerlingske Tidende, Henrik List

» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jack Kerouacprimary authorall editionscalculated
Phillips, BaryeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vandenbergh, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedicated to Han Shan
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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.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140042520, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:21 -0400)

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"Kerouac living his dream as a Zen Lunatic and rucksack wanderer on the fabled golden shores of West Coast America" Ann Charters from the bookjacket.

» see all 2 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141184884, 0143039601


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