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The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
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Jun 05, 07

bookshelves: religion-slash-spiritual
Read in May, 2007

A good read, although I did find it to be a bit pretentious and hypocritical, at least on the part of the main character (whom I can only assume is an extension of the author). While I do appreciate the struggle towards enlightenment, I feel that there are two problems with the book.

Firstly, the main character's attitude towards Christianity is the same attitude he receives from others about his Buddhism, yet he does not see the parallel, and does not see his own closed-minded nature reflected in others. The other problem with the book is that it ends right before it can really get going, right before the interesting bit. So he feels he has achieved some truth, some higher plane. Now what? His sojourn in the mountains will end, and he will return to normal society. How does this light he touched carry with him back into society? Or is he no better than any of us for whom enlightenment is just a weekend retreat?

Overall a good read, but not the best of what I've read from him. It meanders a bit and gets slow at parts, but Kerouac has a sharp writing style which never fails to please.
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message 1: by Jamie (last edited Aug 16, 2009 04:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jamie Ward "The other problem with the book is that it ends right before it can really get going, right before the interesting bit. So he feels he has achieved some truth, some higher plane. Now what?"

*****

An excerpt from the book, chapter 25:

It was an ancient Chinese cartoon showing first a young boy going out into the wilderness with a small staff and pack, like an American Nat Wills tramp of 1905, and in later panels he discovers an ox, tries to tame it, tries to ride it, finally does tame it and ride it but then abandons the ox and just sits in the moonlight meditating, finally you see him coming down from the mountain of enlightenment and then the next panel shows nothing at all, followed by a panel showing blossoms in a tree, then the last picture you see the young boy is a big fat old laughing wizard with a huge bag on his back and he's going into the city to get drunk with the butchers, enlightened, and another new young boy is going up to the mountain with a little pack and staff.

*****

The Banana Sermon!

Hope that clears it up a little. And yes, Ray is an extension of Kerouac himself, as are all the characters in the book extensions of his real life friends and their experiences.


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