The voice in Jack Kerouac’s Desolation Angles is definitely different than the voice of On The Road or Dharma Bums.  There are passages where he almost sounds like E.E. Cummings (but maybe it’s just the parenthesis).


Wait: You did what, now?

Another excerpt from On The Road by Jack Kerouac, ©1955:

I went out to the cemetery and climbed a tree.  In the tree I sang “Blue Skies.”  Terry and Johnny sat in the grass; we had grapes.

There are certain passages in this book that sound like they’re straight out of Zippy the Pinhead.

Lover Man

Excerpt from On The Road by Jack Kerouac, ©1955:

I huddled in the cold, rainy wind and watched everything across the sad vineyards of October in the valley.  My mind was filled with that great song “Lover Man” as Billie Holiday sings it; I had my own concert in the bushes.  “Someday we’ll meet, and you’ll dry all my tears, and whisper sweet, little things in my ear, hugging and a-kissing, oh what we’ve been missing, Lover Man, oh where can you be…”  It’s not the words so much as the great harmonic tune and the way Billie sings it, like a woman stroking her man’s hair in soft lamp-light.  The winds howled.  I got cold.

(Full song lyrics HERE.)

Hit The Road, Jack

I’m re-reading The Dharma Bums and On The Road, and although I still love the way Jack Kerouac writes I find myself less enchanted by his philosophies.

Depending upon the kindness of strangers for your livelihood and indulging every whim as soon as it arises doesn’t sound like freedom and enlightenment.  It sounds like infantilism.

Bangtail Ideas

And yet another excerpt from The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, ©1958:

But I had my own little bangtail ideas and they had nothing to do with the “lunatic” part of all this.  I wanted to get me a full pack complete with everything necessary to sleep, shelter, eat, cook, in fact a regular kitchen and bedroom right on my back, and go off somewhere and find perfect solitude and look into the perfect emptiness of my mind and be completely neutral from any and all ideas.  I intended to pray, too, as my only activity, pray for all living creatures; I saw it was the only decent activity left in the world.  To be in some riverbottom somewhere, or in a desert, or in mountains, or in some hut in Mexico or shack in Adirondack, and rest and be kind, and do nothing else, practice what the Chinese call “do-nothing.”  I didn’t want to have anything to do, really, either with Japhy’s ideas about society (I figured it would be better to just avoid it all together, walk around it) or with any of Alvah’s ideas about grasping after life as much as you can because of its sweet sadness and because you would be dead some day.

(“Alvah” is Allen Ginsberg; “Japhy” is Gary Snyder.)

Everything Smelling of Mint

Another excerpt from The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, ©1958:

In Berkeley I was living with Alvah Goldbook in his little rose-covered cottage in the backyard of a bigger house on Milvia Street.  The old rotten porch slanted forward to the ground, among vines, with a nice old rocking chair that I sat in every morning to read my Diamond Sutra.  The yard was full of tomato plants about to ripen, and mint, mint, everything smelling of mint, and one fine old tree that I loved to sit under and meditate on those cool perfect starry California October nights unmatched anywhere in the world.  We had a perfect little kitchen with a gas stove, but no icebox, but no matter.  We also had a perfect little bathroom with a tub and hot water, and one main room, covered with pillows and floor mats of straw and mattresses to sleep on, and book, books, hundreds of books everything from Catullus to Pound to Blyth to albums of Back and Beethoven (and even one swinging Ella Fitzgerald album with Clark Terry very interesting on trumpet) and a good three-speed Webcor phonograph that played loud enough to blast the roof off:  and the roof nothing but plywood, the walls too…

This isn’t an especially “deep” passage, just a description of his house, but love the way he writes and his use of repetition.

(“Alvah Goldbook” is a cunning pseudonym for Allen Ginsberg.)

Strange Unexpected Acts

Excerpt from The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac, ©1958:

Japhy leaping up:  “I’ve been reading Whitman, know what he says, Cheer up slaves, and horrify foreign despots, he means that’s that attitude for the Bard, the Zen Lunacy bard of old desert paths, see the whole thing is a world full of rucksack wanderers, Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn’t really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, at least new few fancy cars, certain hair oils and deodorants and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume, I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of ’em Zen lunatics who go about writing poems in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and all living creatures…