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Desolation Angels Paperback – September 1, 1995

4.6 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Kerouac was a breath of fresh air when he came on the literary scene. He was also a force, a tragedy, a triumph, and an ongoing influence, and that influence is still with us."
—Norman Mailer

"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..."
—Nelson Algren

"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."
—Allen Ginsberg

About the Author

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), the central figure of the Beat Generation, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922 and died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969. Among his many novels are On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and Visions of Cody.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 409 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1st Riverhead ed edition (September 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573225053
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573225052
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), the central figure of the Beat Generation, was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922 and died in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1969. Among his many novels are On the Road, The Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and Visions of Cody.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There are usually two types of Kerouac readers. There are the "On the Roaders", as I call them. The ones that enjoy his style, his way of placing his friends' lives into the context of their own troubles, their loneliness their love-- all the while with a literary pace likened to a old pickup speeding across the straightaways of the vacant Montana backroads. And then there are the others, who like the former, enjoy the style-- but they also look for the sadness in Kerouac's writing. His ability to deconstruct people with one look (in Desolation Angels he watches a waitress in a bar and tells her entire life story in snapshot events that underlie the sad look in her eyes), to find the hidden sentiments in people's actions-- whether he's right or wrong we really don't care.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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, 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.
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Format: Paperback
Wonderful novel by Jack Kerouac. We sense his deep loneliness and reevaluation of his life during his 63-day stay atop Desolation Peak in Mt. Baker National Forest in Washington State. Once down from the mountain, he sees how much life has changed once his novel "On the Road" is published. For those of you who loved "On the Road," "Desolation Angels" is a book you definitely must read--it's by far Kerouac's best and most personal novel.
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Format: Paperback
Somewhere in the 409 pages of this book you'll find buried a truly great work of American literature. It is hard to fault Kerouac for his devotion to spontaneous and unedited writing; though these methods imposed limitations on what he could accomplish as a writer, they also contributed to what makes his books so fascinating. If Jack had lived in Hemingway's time, he would have submitted Desolation Angels to the publisher and would have been handed back a 300 page masterpiece.

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.
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