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Desolation Angels Paperback – September 1, 1995
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"Kerouac ... defines the sensibilites of members of his own subgeneration: we knew them as wearing such guises as the Beat Generation, the Subterraneans, the Dharma Bums; now we see them as Desolation Angels, sadly pursuing their empty futilities..."
"Each book by Kerouac is unique, a telepathic discord. Such rich natural writing is nonpareil in later 20th century, a synthesis of Proust, Celine, Thomas Wolfe, Hemingway, Genet, Thelonius Monk, Basho, Charlie Parker and Kerouac's own athletic sacred insight. Jack Kerouac was a 'writer' as his great peer William S. Burroughs says."
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Top Customer Reviews
Desolation Angels is the book for the second group of people. It is tortuous at times-- like his solitude atop the mountain staring Hozomeen in the face every morning which reveals Kerouac's own struggle to deal with himself and his past. But I believe among all of his novels it is the most rewarding. The book takes us to all of his major haunts- London, New York, San Fran, Paris, the Mediterranean- with many of his closest friends - Neal, Allen, Williams S. Burroughs, Joyce. There's even a small part where Kerouac is face to face with Salvador Dali.
If you are looking for Kerouac-the-humanist at his best- this is the novel for you. Where the novel lacks in adventure (On the Road) and joyous affirmation (Dharma Bums) it makes up in sheer descriptive character study and sad observation, of a man trying to grapple with what he sees as the emptiness of all things, and the reality of his own personal struggles with life, love, and death.
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, meets Salidore Dali + William Carlos WIlliams + Carl Sandburg, gets his book published, is constantly compulsively depressed, has a paradigmatic consciousness flip after a huge dose of opium, meets up with junkie Burroughs in Tangiers (whom is lovelorn over Ginsburg), and kicks Buddhism down a notch for a more hardcore return to Christianity.
As others have noted, this book follows directly after the Dharma Bums and that book should be read first. What follows is Jack's experiences on the mountain which, contrary to his expectations in Dharma Bums, is almost like a nightmare prison sentence.
After he leaves the mountain, we enter into the first half of the book (his return to California), which is a bit ponderous and slow (but never boring). We are treated to a tortureous description of his day of betting at a race track with Neal and Corso.
The book picks up speed bigtime when he goes back on the road and then travels internationally.
His prose is brilliant and poetic and his observations remarkable and I think this book is brilliant; but it is also tremendously sad, deeply frusterated and lost, spiritually drained and destitute, and there is little ecstacy to be had.Read more ›
The most problematic section is the first one, "Desolation in Solitude." I understand that Kerouac wanted to convey the sheer insanity of his isolation as a lookout, but considering that he already devoted about 30 pages to this in Dharma Bums, he essentially retreads the same mystic nonsense for another 70 pages without giving much new insight into his experience. The one interesting bit that comes out of the whole ordeal is the gradual dissatisfaction that Kerouac feels for Buddhism (which, through his interpretation, seems to fall a bit close to nihilism) and his reacceptance of Christianity.
But after this first section, things pick up and Kerouac delivers one painfully sad and and transcendentally beautiful insight after another (one of my favorites: his frustration at receiving a $3 jaywalking ticket on the way to a job, costing him half his day's pay-- but you have to read the way he puts it to understand, of couse). It is worth noting that Desolation Angels really is two different books written almost 5 years apart. The first half he wrote while in Mexico City (during events he describes in the second half, Passing Through), while the second half was written in Florida (I think) while he lived with his mother.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fools! Epochs of fools! I found a battered copy of Desolation Angels on my weekly trip into the city for life drawing. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Steven
One of the books that shaped my life, and my favorite of Kerouac's novels.Published 5 months ago by PW Covington
I was surprised by Jack's poor writing. I purchased the book for research so I'm not disappointed.Published 8 months ago by LARRY KRACKLE
Desolation Angels (1965) is Jack Kerouac's chronicle of his life in the period between the end of The Dharma Bums, when he takes a job with the forest service in summer 1956 as a... Read morePublished 10 months ago by M. Buzalka
All of Kerouac's books are one big book strung together and many repetitions -Probably read "Big Sur " for most insight into the man.