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Desolation Angels

(Duluoz Legend)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  10,486 ratings  ·  341 reviews
With the publication of On the Road in 1957, Jack Kerouac became at once the spokesman and hero of the Beat Generation. Along with such visionaries as William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac changed the face of American literature, igniting a counterculture revolution that even now, decades later, burns brighter than ever in Desolation Angels.

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Paperback, First Riverhead trade paperback edition, 432 pages
Published September 1st 1995 by Riverhead Books (first published 1958)
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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  10,486 ratings  ·  341 reviews

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Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, literary
This book is the best reason I can think of for anyone ever learning to read. I've spent most of it with my mouth - metaphorically - hanging open, and my heart perpetually glowing and breaking along with Kerouac's various and numerous highs and lows. Can you be in love with someone who died years before you were even a twinkle in the eye of the universe? I think so.

This is not On the Road, and On the Road is nothing by comparison. That is, if there can be any other piece of writing that could e
Steven Godin
Described by some as Kerouac's best work, Desolation Angels contains everything you would come to expect from a key writer of the Beat Generation, with an abundance of Jack's sometimes difficult to grasp Spontaneous Prose. This was such a mixed bag for me, from the stream of his semi-conscious jazz-like rhythm fuzzy beatnik mind, to the more clearer and poignant writing later on that chronicles the travelling lives of himself, his friends, including Irwin Garden (Allen Ginsberg) and Bull Hubbard ...more
Vit Babenco
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“My life is a vast and insane legend reaching everywhere without beginning or ending, like the Void – like Samsara – A thousand memories come like tics all day perturbing my vital mind with almost muscular spasms of clarity and recall…”
Solitude isn’t for Jack Kerouac – alone on the mountain peak he is tortured and intimidated by loneliness and gets bored with it.
“…the vision of the freedom of eternity which I saw and which all wilderness hermitage saints have seen, is of little use in cities and
72nd book of 2020.

This is my 8th Kerouac now - And though not my favourite (that is still Big Sur - review here), this is still a great read.

Desolation Angels begins again, where we are left at the end of The Dharma Bums - at the top of the mountain as a fire-warden. Then we traverse not only America but Mexico, Tangiers and England. The most interesting part for me was the short section in Tangiers with writer William S. Burroughs. Neal Cassady returns too (Dean Moriarty in On the Road) as Co
Jan 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Desolation Angels starts where Kerouac left us at the end of The Dharma Bums. On Desolation Peak. Although the two books kind of flow into each other you will notice that Kerouac has changed. After the thrilling and fervid On The Road he became more quiet and meditative. He still has that excitement for life and experience and that somehow never ending urge to be on the road and hang out with his old Beat buddies but eventually he can't identify with the spirit of the so called Beat Generation a ...more
Dava B
Jun 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
My favourite Kerouac book so far. If there is a continuum of idealism, which starts from 'On the Road' and on through 'The Dharma Bums', it is at this book (which follows on from 'The Dharma Bums') that the cracks are really beginning to appear in Jack Kerouac's experience.

Yet to put it so simply feels like a crude summing up of what Jack Kerouac was really about. His ability to capture the highs, the lows, the humor and the horror of life is nothing short of inspiring. And who am I, really, to
East Bay J
Apr 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bios-and-memoirs
Of the many Beat writers, Burroughs and Kerouac are the two who I’ve read the most and who’s writing has had the most impact on me. Of the two, I like Burroughs’ writing more but find I identify more with Kerouac’s.

The first Kerouac book I read was On The Road . I was in college and I was in Spokane in the early morning waiting for a bus to take me home to Cheney. I read the entire book waiting for that bus, which tells you I was way into it and that the busses In Spokane were few and far bet
Andy Miller
Jun 15, 2011 rated it liked it
While I truly loved On the Road, I was pleasantly surprised when I read Dharma Bums and found it to be an even better book. However, I found Desolation Angels somewhat of a disappointment

The book starts with his time as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the North Cascade, I've learned that this section of the book was mainly taken from the journals he wrote at the time--much of it deals with his musings on Buddhism and his life-and I found that part to be somewhat flat.More interesting was hi
Robert Mitchell
Nov 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Desolation Angels is heaven and hell and the world and America and the Void and his Mom. Kerouac/Duluoz is a despicable, noble, earnest, loving, whiny, brilliant, loyal, weak, irreplaceable, insane jazz poet. As a preamble, listen to Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row and realize how he creates surprisingly linear beauty tangentially, and then crank up the random-o-meter one hundred times for Kerouac. One thousand preliminarily random images turn into a masterful Pointillist painting in prose. Bebop imp ...more
Harry Whitewolf
Aug 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Forget On The Road- this is Kerouac at his best. Combining the spiritual philosophies of the Dharma Bums, the road and parties and seeking of On The Road and the desolation and isolation of the human spirit in the abyss of nature of Big Sur. To me, this is Jack's most accessible and balanced writing, not only for the content, but also for his lyrical prose being at its finest. Genius! ...more
Another excellent chapter in his life, with many great moments. Geographically wide-ranging, from the isolation of Desolation Peak in Washington state to lively San Fran, to the slums and mescal of Mexico City, back to friends and new lovers in NY City, then to Tangiers with morphine-addicted Burroughs and his new book "Nude Supper", haha, to LA by bus with his mother, and finally to Florida to rest his weary tired soul. Definitely felt the desolation throughout this book, over and over he talks ...more
Sarah Crawford
Aug 28, 2007 rated it liked it
I, like many others, found Desolation Angels after reading On The Road.
If you're expecting this to be an off-shoot of On The Road, you'd be wrong.
This book is a journey into the mind of Kerouac. Some call him genius, some madman, but I don't think you can truly define him in any one catagory.
This book is no easy task. It takes a lot of thinking and a lot of patience to get through, but it's well worth the effort in the end.
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Boy, I really enjoyed this book, even if not a great work of art. For me reading later Kerouac is like a great conversation with a really thoughtful and interesting, if somewhat mixed-up friend. I bought this for .50 at the Friends of Library Booksale, lost it for about two months, and spent many pleasurable hours on my front porch reading the almost 400 pages this spring, summer and fall. I'm feeling kind of melancholy that I'm finished and don't have Jack to visit with anymore. Goodbye Jack. M ...more
Scott Lesperance
Feb 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
I tried getting into this but wow, this is horrible and I dont understand why so many give it great reviews.
His style is extremely awkward, and the mini-rants(for lack of better term) are pointless. I could not get past page 5.

robin friedman
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Loneliness And Restlessness On Desolation Peak

After reading the memoirs of Helen Weaver 'The Awakener: A Memoir of Kerouac" and Joyce Johnson (Glassman) "Minor Characters", I wanted to read Kerouac's novel "Desolation Angels". Kerouac had a short relationship with Weaver in 1956 followed by a longer relationship with Johnson. In "Desolation Angels", Kerouac describes his relationship with these women from his own perspective. There is much more to the book.

"Desolation Angels" is the most literal
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, american, loved
"And on the way home he always tells the driver to stop at Cine So and So, the nearby movie house, and walks the extra block so no cabby ever knows where he lives. 'When I go across the border nobody can put the finger on me because I put the finger up my ass.'
What a strange vision, an old man walking across the border with his finger up his behind?" [p. 232]
Alan Scott
Dec 17, 2008 rated it really liked it

ON THE ROAD...with Mom

This book may come as a real shock to those whom have a preconcieved notion about what the "Beats" were all about, and it may also be a shock for those more familiar with the jubilant ecstatic life affirmations of On The Road or even The Dharma Bums.

In this book Jack goes on the road (with Mom), has sex with a fourteen year old mexican prostitute, meets up with a Neal (Cody) whom is a far fly from his On the Road days and is tied down with a wife + three kids and a job,
Kate Buck
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dane Cobain
Apr 21, 2013 rated it liked it
Desolation Angels contains everything that you've come to expect from Kerouac, from the stream-of-consciousness jazz-like rhythm of his beatnik writing to the way that he chronicles the lives of himself and his friends in 1950s America.

The book begins with a pensive Kerouac atop a mountain, Jack's record of a long, lonely summer spent fire-watching. After this period of desolation, he returns to the bright lights of the big cities to meet up with his friends, many of whom were high-profile liter
Joel Lacivita
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found this book to be very thought provoking. The first section was particularly interesting when he was alone and isolated on the top of mountain in the state of Washington. Jack's books are all based on his experiences, and I can't imagine being a lookout on the top of a mountain, all alone and isolated for an entire month. It is here where the theme of the book is set.

The desolation angels are his troupe of famous beatniks that keep him from feeling isolated. The rest of the novel involves
GK Stritch
May 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jack-EEE Duluoz climbs the mountain, and comes down (p. 113):

"I go all the way down to First Avenue . . . I realize it's Friday Night all over America, in New York it's just ten o'clock and the fight's started in the Garden and longshoremen in North River bars are all watching the fight and drinking 20 beers apiece, and Sams are sitting in the front row . . . while I spent all summer pacing and praying in mountaintops, of rock and snow, of lost birds and bears, these people've been sucking on ci
May 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016
It was all downhill after the beautiful title save for some sporadic flashes of poignancy... I was leery of picking up this late-career work of Kerouac's, coming at a point when his writing had saturated the market and booze had flooded his talent. My worst fears were confirmed: this is an incoherent mess. He primes us for tedium by shamelessly recycling The Dharma Bums for the first 70 odd pages, then rambles his way through an endless procession of tired, desultory nonsense. It has none of the ...more
Megan Clarke
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I finally found it. The book that changed my life. A bible for any avid and aspiring reader, poet, philosopher, writer, adventurer.
John Eastman
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. Why? Mostly because I´ve always been a fan of Kerouacs writing style, his sincerely and progress as a writer as well as a human beeing. While some might argue that in his later year he became a bitter alcoholic one must say that it never affected his writing in a negative way. This is not On The Road, it´s darker and grittier but that may be exactly why I liked it so much.
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This isn't a book for everybody, but indeed there is something about Kerouac's writing that I find so compelling: honesty, and yes even honesty about the emptiness of a life of radical debauchery while reveling in it. He captures the ambiguity of life, the ambiguity of the self in a rootless life, or at least an attempt at rootlessness, for Kerouac wasn't entirely rootless. He had Memère. ...more
Mar 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Oh what a shame oh what a shame but he does speak beautifully about his mother
Simon Robs
Aug 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Kerouac epitomizes his roaming road-dog philosophy as oscillating from beat as in beat down to beatific as scintillant angel-in-waiting penitent walking, thumbing, noticing the lost backroads of the world's underbelly. "Desolation Angels" begins on a mountaintop in contemplation and after a roller-coaster ride through the detritus riddled mélange of Beat characters' antics arrives worn and shorn of hubris but nonetheless a writer of notoriety in the making. "On the Road" was published in early S ...more
Mar 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people under forty years old.
I have read this book a couple of times before. I started it seeking location of Olivia's quote. I still have not found that quote, but kept reading the book.

I have read many of Keouac's books. He was, at one time right up with Ernest Hemingway in my major arcana. But, Jack K., became too depressing for me. The sadness and depression became unbearable. I just could not handle all that misery on top of his personal story. His life was just as miserable and hopeless and the loops of despair that a
Hunter Marston
Dec 08, 2009 rated it liked it
This book was unique among Keruoac books I've read. It seemed like it was cobbled together by editors in a hurry to sell Keruoac in his post-On the Road fame. It reads as three or four different book projects thrown together into a rather erratic timeline. One: in the Pacific Northwest in solitude, written much more in the style of Big Sur or Dharma Bums spontaneous poetry; Two: shenanigans in San Fransisco with fellow Beats; Three: off in Mexico City (at which point he includes self-reference t ...more
Allan MacDonell
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The thing to admire about Jack Kerouac is that he was smart enough to disguise the fact that he was an idiot, in his books at least, and he didn’t do that. This is not to deny that his writings are streaked through with layers of pretentious dispensations lathered upon his fictional self and his thinly disguised friends and literary contemporaries. Starting with its title, Desolation Angels is veined with bold assertions of eternal sacred significance for Kerouac’s book-famous crew of basic fuck ...more
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Jack Kerouac was born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac 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.


Other books in the series

Duluoz Legend (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings
  • Visions of Gerard
  • Dr. Sax
  • The Town and the City
  • Maggie Cassidy
  • Vanity of Duluoz: An Adventurous Education, 1935-46
  • On the Road
  • Visions of Cody
  • The Subterraneans
  • Tristessa

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