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The Dharma Bums

(Duluoz Legend)

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  88,922 ratings  ·  3,065 reviews
Two ebullient young men search for Truth the Zen way: from marathon wine-drinking bouts, poetry jam sessions, and "yabyum" in San Francisco's Bohemia, to solitude in the high Sierras and a vigil atop Desolation Peak in Washington State. Published just a year after On the Road put the Beat Generation on the map, The Dharma Bums is sparked by Kerouac's expansiveness, humor, ...more
Paperback, 244 pages
Published 1986 by Penguin Books (first published 1958)
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Jill In part, beat literature is an attempt to remove all filters and write as thoughts come to us. It was indeed fueled by alcohol, pot, coffee benzadrine…moreIn part, beat literature is an attempt to remove all filters and write as thoughts come to us. It was indeed fueled by alcohol, pot, coffee benzadrine. But also by Jack's (according to Allen, "unspeakable enthusiasm". If you read Big Sur, you'll get a better sense of Jack's love of words for their music. There were many (at the time) strict rules in writing and Jack pretty much violated them all. As did Ginsberg, and Burroughs, Amiri Baraka and Gary Snyder.(less)
Andrew Robinson On the Road provides really interesting contrast to Dharma Bums. Some elements of Kerouac's journey reemerge, and it's interesting to compare the more…moreOn the Road provides really interesting contrast to Dharma Bums. Some elements of Kerouac's journey reemerge, and it's interesting to compare the more unrestrained boozing of On the Road with the more spiritual journey Ray undertakes in Dharma Bums. I'd recommend reading On the Road first.(less)

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Paul Bryant
Sep 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
That's a completely nostalgic four stars of course. Has there been a writer whose reputation has plummeted quite so much between the 70s and now as jolly Jack and his tales of merry misogynism? But like Bob Dylan says

While riding on a train goin’ west
I fell asleep for to take my rest
I dreamed a dream that made me sad
Concerning myself and the first few friends I had

With half-damp eyes I stared to the room
Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon
Where we together weathered many a storm
Aug 07, 2008 rated it did not like it
Too much bum, not enough dharma.
Ahmad Sharabiani
The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac

The Dharma Bums is a 1958 novel by Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac. The basis for the novel's semi-fictional accounts are events occurring years after the events of On the Road.

Two ebullient young men search for Truth the Zen way: from marathon wine-drinking bouts, poetry jam sessions, and "yabyum" in San Francisco's Bohemia, to solitude in the high Sierras and a vigil atop Desolation Peak in Washington State.

The main characters are the narrator Ray Smith, based
Leile Brittan
Mar 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
This was really a pleasant surprise. After making my way through "On the Road" and a few other things by Kerouac, I had come to the conclusion that the dude is a hack, and that the other Beats were really on some way better shit. I just couldn't feel that "rambling" ass style that he writes in, even though I acknowledge that it was a conscious decision of his to write that way.

I get it -- he writes the way he travels, making quick decisions and trying to be spontaneous and spiritual. But to me
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
"Yeah man, you know to me a mountain is a Buddha. Think of the patience, hundreds of thousands of years just sitting there bein perfectly perfectly silent and like praying for all living creaturs in that silence and just wwaiting for us to stop all our frettin and foolin."
- Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums


I recently started going to a weekly Kadampa Buddhism and meditation class at a local Unitarian church with a friend of mine. I'm far too skeptical to jump into or out of religions easily, but I h
Michael Finocchiaro
Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums: "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."

Kerouac gives us the rambling masterpiece of a sentence with no punctuation and yet chock-full of description and character. The poverty/liberty of "hopping a freight", the locale firmly rooted in hippy California (Los Angeles, Santa Ba
I was super into Kerouac in college – which I supposed is the time in one’s life where you are supposed to be into Kerouac. Re-reading “On the Road” in my thirties might not have been my best idea, because it served only to show me how drastically my perspective on things had changed in a decade, and how Jack’s freewheeling madness might have been occasionally beautiful, but it had also had tragic consequences I couldn’t ignore. I thought about putting his books away for good, but I found I coul ...more
Lynne King
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Enfant terrible, a unique individual, jazz lover and a poet; this book, was written when Jack Kerouac was thirty-six years old. He was at the forefront of the Beat Generation in California in the fifties, through to his death in 1969, at the age of forty-seven.

I kept on telling myself this is not my kind of book and I’m not enjoying myself but who was I trying to kid. Yes, it’s “raw in thought” but spirituality flows throughout, even though the catholic faith is viewed through the eyes of (Zen)
Jason Koivu
Kerouac can spin an enjoyable yarn, as long as you don't mind rambling along with him on directionless paths with no real goal in mind but to spin that yarn.

In The Dharma Bums he takes the reader from city-drop-outs to mountain solitude, the mind-fuck excitement and shit of civilization to the glorious simplicity and utter loneliness of a retreat back to nature.

Even though he cheats the reader with some quick-fix adverbs in place of the proper description owed his audience, Kerouac still deserv
Steven Godin
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I remember never really seeing eye to eye with Kerouac's 'On the Road', it was a book I only managed to drag myself through thanks to a dogged stubbornness. And I still think it's one of the most overhyped novels of the 20th century. This however was a slightly more positive kettle of fish. Actually, forget the fish, going by what's mostly eaten here it's more like salami, cheese, and crackers.

I have to say not all of The Dharma Bums went down well with me, but I still quite liked it anyhow, esp
Julie Ehlers
For some reason I recently got it into my head that I should read The Dharma Bums in the near future, so when I spotted a pristine copy on my library's "New Arrivals" shelf it seemed like fate. Now that I've read it, I'm bewildered. What is this book? Are we meant to take it seriously? I was alternately amused, annoyed, disturbed, and edified by it, and there was no overlap in these feelings. I never felt amused AND annoyed; never felt disturbed AND edified. Only one thing at a time. And so I wi ...more
Mar 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Do No Harm

I read this book 30 years ago. I believed then that his practice of Buddhism was hedonistic. I still believe the same, having read it again.

Kerouac and his new friend Jaffy enjoyed some of the Buddha’s teachings, all but the precepts, which I have been told, by my own Buddhist teacher, to be necessary to follow if you want to reach enlightenment. I no longer believe in enlightenment or even karma or heavens and hells. I only believe in the precepts which come down to this: Do no harm.
Ms. Fenn
Jul 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Dharma Bums is for the hiker/outdoorsman, the aspiring buddhist sage, and the lover of beautifully woven syntax. Ray thumbs his way across the continental U.S. two, almost three times. In his travels, he meets hobos, family, friends, yabyum partners, Zen Lunatics but mostly he discovers a love for the essence of nature and the power of it's awesomeness. Ray overcomes some personal demons with the help and guidance of Japhy Ryder. Eventually, he decides to take a post as a fire watcher on top of ...more
Apr 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody
consistently one of my favorite reads. i've bought this book three times now and i still haven't been able to hold on to it. the kerouac estate will forever be the recipient of my hard earned dough.

i have to say, it's one of my top ten. not for its far-reaching insights, kerouac's intimate style, or it's lively presentation of a man who was the embodiment, precursor, exemplification, and antecedent to all those to follow dubbed 'heads' or less acurately 'hippies,' but for it's depiction of a ma
Dec 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Philosophers, Poets, Catholics,Nomads
I got my copy in Chicago for a dollar
My friends frienzied onward toward the train
I had the whole thing read by Indiana
and I had been forever changed.

I started, for some time, to weep
about the beauty in a lonely life
stumbling back to his shade tree, Jack found
a magic trap door in his mind.

The nature, she beckons, relententlessly
dewy sweaters on sweet, green leaves
taste like tripping the child right out of me
to dance mercilessly among the marching trees

push, pull, shove, stop step the hell around
Nate D
Apr 21, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: buddhist hobos
Recommended to Nate D by: Everyone
So I only just started this, but just look:

"And who am I?"
"I dunno, maybe you're Goat."
"Maybe you're Mudface."
"Who's Mudface?"
"Mudface is the mud in your goatface. What would you say if someone was asked the question 'Does a dog have a Buddha nature?' and said 'Woof!'"

Fortunately Kerouac's Proxytagonist du jour acknowledges this as "silly Zen Buddhism", but even so, the koan-lobber is a character being presented as enlightened. Of course, I'm going to see where this is going, but if I hav
Nov 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Kerouac is innocent and rowdy and loco, unjaded and earnest, a real goodfellow. I tried reading On the Road as a high schooler and was unimpressed, I was too serious and uptight. I lacked experience. This time around I get the Zen stuff, yo, I was put off at first by his attempts at telling what is impossible to tell, but he reveals himself, he risks ridicule to show how sincere he feels, and how arrogant too, like when Rosie dies and he thinks if only she had listened to him, if only she knew w ...more
May 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: writers, artists, and seekers
I first read The Dharma Bums in about 1969. It was our instructional manual on "how to be a hippie." The long, late-night drug and alcohol fueled parties, the disdain for money and suburbia and middle class life, the simple foods and hanging out on the floor. Hiking in the woods, free love, earth mothers and footloose uncommitted men.

As soon as my first husband and I reached San Francisco after driving and camping our way across America from Michigan, we climbed up to Mount Tamalpais and got hi
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jack-kerouac
Then I suddenly had the most tremendous feeling of the pitifulness of human beings, whatever they were, their faces, pained mouths, personalities, attempts to be gay, little petulances, feelings of loss, their dull and empty witticisms so soon forgotten: Ah, for what? I knew that the sound of silence was everywhere and therefore everything everywhere was silence. Suppose we suddenly wake up and see that what we thought to be this and that, ain't this and that at all? I staggered up the hill, gre ...more
Jim Fonseca
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Published in 1958, this book is a fascinating preview of the 1960's. Like On the Road, it is based on Kerouac's adventures in the late 1940's and early 1950's as he and his buddies helped create the counter-culture, migrating cross-country between bases in Greenwich Village and San Francisco. They hop freights as hobos (the end of that era). They talk endlessly about Buddhist concepts (thus Dharma). Kerouac is credited with inventing the phrase "beat generation" but his group disowned it when th ...more
Andy Miller
Apr 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Dharma Bums is set in the late fifties, in Jack Kerouac's life shortly after the events chronicled in On the Road. It focuses on his relationship with poet Gary Snyder and his exposure to Snyder's love of the outdoors and study of Buddhism. I know that some have criticized Kerouac's treatment of Buddhism, but I think those purists have missed the point, what I found compelling was the effect of Buddhism on the lives and lifestyles of the Beat poets and writers.

Reading this 50 years after publica
Nov 19, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: travel
So this is what started the "backpack revolution". Great. Except it was less backpacking, more Buddhism preaching. The main character (Ray?) comes across as a patronizing nutcase with his combination of drunken bumhood, Christianity, and Buddhism.

So he is a buddhist - correction: he thinks he is Buddha - and he also thinks he is a "crazy saint". He believes he can perform miracles, namely cure his mother of allergies, but then decides he won't perform miracles anymore because that will make him
Lawrence FitzGerald
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1950-s, literary
Don't read Kerouac when you're too young. Read him as you join that long death march called steady employment. Then look back. Look back to all the people you knew, those people who went here and there, those people who knew odd patches of philosophy and poetry. They fucked. They doped and boozed in desperate self medication. Look back at yourself.

Jack travels here and there. He knows people with Odd Knowledge. They have plumbed the breadth and depth of human existence. They get laid in the era
Forget 'On the Road'. I've been reading a lot of spiritual/philosophical books this year, getting into that area - especially Zen. I've read 'Siddhartha', 'Demian', 'The Alchemist', 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance', Pessoa's 'The Book of Disquiet', Mishima's 'The Temple of the Golden Pavilion'... But, none of them 'changed' my life. I wanted a lot of them too. I wanted to say 'Siddhartha' changed me. Or that Pirsig did. But none of them did. However. 'On the Road' was my second book o ...more
Khashayar Mohammadi
Anyone who knows me knows that for the longest time, I considered the Beat poets/writers my mortal enemies. I used to claim that the beat generation represented everything I hated in literature, yet I refused to read full works of any prominent beat writers.

I gotta admit, "On the Road" has got to be one of the worst novels I have ever read in my life; which is a valid statement to make, considering that the prominence of the novel was never due to flawless prose or any technical aspect that is c
Joel Lacivita
Mar 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had read an article, a few weeks ago in the Tampa Tribune, about the Kerouac house in St. Petersburg, Florida being up for sale. It talked about how he had died in 1969 at the age of 47. His last drink was consumed at the Flamingo Sports Bar, later he was rushed to the hospital where he died of cirrhosis. The article stated that he was overweight and not doing well at the time of his death and did not produce much, from a writing standpoint, while he lived there. They mentioned the Dharma Bums ...more
robin friedman
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Jack Kerouac And Gary Snyder

Following the success of "On the Road", Kerouac's publishers initially rejected his manuscripts such as "The Subterraneans" and "Tristessa." But his publisher asked him to write an accessible, popular novel continuing with the themes of "On the Road." Kerouac responded with "The Dharma Bums" which was published late in 1958. "The Dharma Bums" is more conventionally written that most of Kerouac's other books, with short, generally clear sentences and a story line that
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: california
Love this book. When I first read it, I read it for the sex and the late night bull sessions... had not had sex, was still living at home and had no idea who Japhy Ryder (Gary Snyder) was. REad it more recently--now I've had sex and a million late night bull sessions, so that wasn't the thrill it had been at 16. Now I find what I admire the most is Japhy Ryder, and especially, the liveliness of Kerouac's nature writing. I've done a lot of hiking and backpacking, and my god Kerouac's sense of nat ...more
The cruellest thing you can do to Kerouac is reread him at thirty-eight. From The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi

Spotting the problematic - some people assume it's what you're meant to do with art now. Paraphrase from a comment by Wastrel in a recent Goodreads discussion.

I chose this because, in my tsundoku-reading, I'd recently read 3 short books on Buddhism, and it fit right in. Also, sort of like All Time Popular Goodreads Reviewer Karen and the seasonal avatars. Summer! Time for books s
I was charmed and uplifted by this reflective, poetic vision of a life of rambling in California and the Pacific Northwest, a thinly veiled fictional portrayal of Kerouac’s friendship with poet Gary Snyder in the 50’s. While “On the Road” felt like a portrait of America and the key characters often felt a bit lost and self-centered, here the action is more attuned to connections with nature and an exultant exploration of Buddhist outlooks. Like the other book it reads more like a memoir and trav ...more
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Club de Lecture F...: This topic has been closed to new comments. * Lecture Septembre 2016 4 23 Oct 02, 2016 02:41AM  
AoM Essential Man...: Dharma
 Bums 1 6 May 01, 2015 09:21AM  
Yoga Folks: People who have read Dharma Bums - Would you recommend it? 3 48 Mar 25, 2015 12:20PM  
Tequila Mockingbi...: Group Discussion 1 2 18 Dec 03, 2013 05:26PM  
The Perks Of Bein...: The best Kerouac 1 25 May 15, 2013 09:00PM  
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¿Verdad o ficción? 1 43 Dec 28, 2007 10:04PM  

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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
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