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Book of Blues

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  844 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Best known for his "Legend of Duluoz" novels, including On the Road and The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac is also an important poet. In these eight extended poems, Kerouac writes from the heart of experience in the music of language, employing the same instrumental blues form that he used to fullest effect in Mexico City Blues, his largely unheralded classic of postmodern lite ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 1995 by Penguin Books
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Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia WoolfThe Waves by Virginia WoolfTo the Lighthouse by Virginia WoolfUlysses by James JoyceThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Great Stream of Consciousness Novels
110th out of 124 books — 114 voters
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Best of Jack Kerouac
38th out of 56 books — 1 voter

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Community Reviews

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Eddie Watkins
Jack Kerouac reminds me of my father-in-law a little, though my father-in-law’s hands are ever working with drywall, fiberglass, salvaged wood scraps, and various buckets of construction slops rather than with words. They both, however, swill(ed) bourbon like mother’s milk.

But the true substance of this comparison is their sensuous sloppiness coupled with an emotional apprehension of the world that can slip into the maudlin exposing a raw sensitivity that often masks itself in devil-may-care bo
JJ Lehmann
My first Kerouac book...I actually stole this book. Shh, don't tell anyone...oops.
There are a lot of folks who may just not 'get' this, and that's OK. Looking back through the eyes of the 21st century, it's sometimes difficult for people to grasp, but the key here is the rhythm, the blues, the cant that's used, the gaps, and above all the clearly defined limitations of how he composed these poems:
"In my system, the form of blues choruses is limited by the small page of the breastpocket notebook in which they are written, like the form of a set number of bars in a jazz blues
I like Kerouac's books, I like Ginsbergs poetry, I love Burroughs, I love avant-garde poetry. So I was expecting to enjoy this.

But this was the worst poetry I have ever read in my entire life. I honestly don't understand all these high ratings at all.

It is hard to describe, It isn't all terrible, but a majority of it is. Most of it looks like the guy was trying to do cutups, and then when you realize he wasn't and he was seriously trying to write poetry about the streets of these cities it makes
Oct 11, 2013 Mat rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: beat
Hmmmmm........tough call.
I think this is one of those books that divides the bona fide Kerouac fan from the Kerouac freak. Come to think of it, I probably used to belong to the latter category but now most probably belong to the former category.
Like with so many of Kerouac's poetry collections, there are highs and lows. Even in his largely unheralded classic Mexico City Blues, some pages are disappointing. Is this the best the King of the Beats has to offer, I wondered at times. But here I must
Samantha Albala
Jack Kerouac's Book of Blues was a wonderful collection of thoughts and clippings from traveling experiences. I felt a connection when reading these pieces. I would say some are vulgar and do not speak to me quite as much, but I did find joy and love, feeling like I was walking some streets with him. If you are new to his poetry I would recommend you start here. I haven't read anything as wonderful yet!
Michael Hattem
I've always felt that Kerouac's poetry was highly underrated since his prose is so celebrated. Kerouac attempted to be as free as one can possibly be in a prose setting, but in his poems he didn't have to try so hard because of the form. And it shows. Personally, I feel some of his best writing is contained in a few of these blues poems and in Mexico City Blues. Some of it rivals and/or surpasses any of Ginsberg's non-Howl/Kaddish/Fall of America poems. And that's saying something. I think Kerou ...more
Amanda N. Butler
I wanted to give this book five stars, but ultimately I docked a star for problematic content, including sexism, and racist and homophobic slurs.
One can either “get” these poems, or not. Most of these poems are glances into Kerouac’s head, and are quite beautiful descriptions, both in their prose and their blunt form.

Other poems are just tacky; talking about “interesting rapes” and “keep that daughter/ away from my knees/ after she’s thirteen.” Violence against women is thus turned into a casual
I am not a big fan of Kerouac, but I was very pleased with this book. His method of composing words around music and jazz I found translated very well in his poetry. The fact that it didnt seem that he was trying to be a poet gave his verse that much more of a resonance that I feel is missing in much of his prose. All that being said, it would be hard to get a feel for this book without already being familiar with at least some of his prose for it is very intimate and needs a little background. ...more
I bought this to be a very fun kick around read and it turned out to work great for that. It was uplifting to read a few of Kerouac's choruses at any time and they really made me pay attention to detail.

This was the first book I wrote in. Different things that he spoke about which I wanted to read more about.

Also served as a good inspiration for my own writing. Just to experience his flow of thoughts at your own pacing was cool enough.

I can't decide the voice in which I hear his poems - sometimes its direct and straight forward, similar to how I hear Neruda in my head. Other times its my voice. And sometimes its the cliche male rasp over minimalist jazz. The fluidity of style and language hear is mesmerizing, and the verse structure he creates instills an important rhythm that helps hold the poems together within a given section.
my first contact with kerouac's work and i decided to start by reading his poems. some may say that i should have read his novels beforehand, as his strength is in his prose, yet i beg to differ. i think his poems are filled with rhythm and musicality. it certainly was the best way to get sucked into his literary route.
Kyle Chidester
Dec 19, 2010 Kyle Chidester is currently reading it
i like to just thumb through this book every once in awhile. not really something on would sit down & read from one cover to the other, they could, but its not necessarily meant to be, & certainly not requied.
Matthew T.
I liked Desolation Blues the best. Then some poems after that Blues. I guess the book is sold at fiction price because it is fiction shape. Kerouac writes "go jump in the lake" so I will, child.
m. soria
some of his most famous poems are part of this collection, poems that you can read with his voice in your head, because there exist recordings of them.
Evan Gray
Don't skip the introduction to this book! Bob Creely sets this book up perfectly by explaining the terms in which it came about and how it should be read.
I love Kerouac, but I far prefer his prose to his poetry. That isn't to say I didn't enjoy the book, I did. I just prefer his prose style.
Gene Wagendorf III
Don't get me wrong, I do really love my Kerouac, but this book is ridiculously hit or miss. Kerouac's strength is in his prose, go read that.
Mike Welsh
Tough to read beat-nik poetry. Meant to be heard.
Nick Sklias
For Free The I in the End.
Nov 06, 2007 Ryan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes poetry
it sounds better when you hear him read it himself.
fun-filled, old-time-jazz filled poetry
Bryan Duffy
Sep 28, 2007 Bryan Duffy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who eat grass and search for needles in a hay stack

A Beautiful poems
Rommel Rivas
Rommel Rivas marked it as to-read
Apr 24, 2015
Christian Guerra
Christian Guerra marked it as to-read
Apr 20, 2015
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Born on March 12, 1922, in Lowell, Massachusetts, Jack Kerouac's writing career began in the 1940s, but didn't meet with commercial success until 1957, when On the Road was published. The book became an American classic that defined the Beat Generation. Kerouac died on October 21, 1969, from an abdominal hemorrhage, at age 47.
Early Life

Famed writer Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Keroua
More about Jack Kerouac...
On the Road The Dharma Bums Big Sur The Subterraneans Desolation Angels

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“Bein Crazy
is the least of my worries.”
“It's okay, girl, we'll make it till the sun goes down forever. And until then what you got to lose but the losing? We're fallen angels who didn't believe that nothing means nothing.” 26 likes
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