- 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: 196 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Desolation Angels Paperback – September 1, 1995
"How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals" by Sy Montgomery
“This is a beautiful book — essential reading for anyone who loves animals and knows how much they can teach us about being human.” ― Gwen Cooper, author of "Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat" Pre-order today
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"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."
"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."
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.
Top customer reviews
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I recommend reading this book if you are out in the Bay Area because you will be able to see where we were, how we have changed, and maybe guess where we are going.
In a Waldenesque approach, Kerouac captures Duluoz’s desperate retreat into the wilderness of northern California, in an attempt to escape civilization and reclaim meaning and order in his life. Despite the protagonist’s best efforts, he struggles to detach himself from the hypocrisy and alienation that haunts him. One might think, echoing the footsteps of Thoreau, the sublimity of Big Sur, would inspire a sense of peace and unity in the perceiver, however, Jack is reminded of the transitory and ephemeral nature of life and mankind, plunging him into an existential crisis. Thus, the terrain of California, like the state itself, embodies many contradictory symbols.
Throughout the narrative Jack confronts, and in many instances, deconstructs the transcendent values of his peers, caught between the nostalgic innocence of his past and the destructive and oppressive numbness of his present. In spite of his best effort Jack struggles to connect to the environment of Big Sur or the people around him once he returns to civilization. Jack’s alienation is a powerful theme in the novel, driving him to peruse perverse and superficial relationships with his fellow beatniks. Many of the character’s struggle with sexual oppression, despite the liberal values projected by the movement. Jack’s paranoid and prevalent homophobia, and his swinger lifestyle, represent manifestations of his own hidden homoerotic desire for his best friend Cody. Jacks desire and need for intimacy leads to the sexual objectification and exploitation of the women in the novel, this abusive behavior is popular among the other male beatniks. Many of the female beatniks silently suffer, while the male characters justify their sexual infidelity using narcissistic and hedonistic reasoning.
Jack constantly invokes philosophical and religious texts, tracing the intellectual stream of ideas that nourishes the sexual and social attitudes of his characters. It is evident that Jack is extremely educated, he pulls from a variety of sources both eastern and western. Likewise, many of his characters represent a diverse array of cultures and perspectives brought together by the Romance of the beat movement. This mixture of ideas also reflect the melting pot community of California culture as a whole.
However, Jacks behavior belies a darker side to the idealism of the beat movement as it faced decline in the mid-sixties, leaving its members disheartened. Jack’s alcoholism, represented as the norm in his social circles, plays an important part in his mental and physical decline. Likewise, his interpersonal relationships are dysfunctional and in some cases downright abusive.
I think this book is essential to any California canon, many of these themes and values are relevant to contemporary California culture. This book represents the values of a not so distant past, and the Romantic and progressive attitudes of the characters is still alive and well. I think the criticism of those values is priceless in terms of its relationship to modern ethos, narcissism and rugged individualism being popular topics. From his nihilistic perspective, Jack is able to analyze the idealism behind the beat or hippie movement, portraying it through a true unglamorized lens. On the other hand, Jack is unreliable in the sense that he fails to recognize the narcissism and cynicism that undermines his own perspective. In this sense, Jacks nihilism is portrayed as a natural progression of his perverse idealism, yet, it is not the answer to the issues that torment him. In a sense, the character’s failure lies in their inability to establish any real connection to the environment or the people around them. Free love is represented as an extension of the oppressive patriarchal system not an escape from it. True strength, love, and unity cannot be achieved through the selfish, destructive, and individualistic motives of the male characters. It is important to recognize that these anxieties are not new or unique to the present generation, they have evolved as part of popular movements in California’s cultural past. Jacks idealistic language is pure, it is his actions that are corrupt and self-destructive. The failure lies in his determination to drown the contradictions in alcohol, drugs, and sex, rather than reforming the movement. While so many other novels and media outlets glamourize this aspect of the California past, Kerouac offers a refreshing contrast, depicting the grit and conflict with powerful accuracy. This book is most certainly a wonderful addition to any library and an eye opening read for anyone interested in California’s past.
The writing is beautiful and impressionistic (think of Van Gogh's painting in written form), and the story is as compelling as it is sad.
One thing I particularly liked about it was that the backdrop of the story was Big Sur, the epitome of natural beauty. But as the narrator (Jack) descends into insanity and despair, the natural world gets filtered and described through his subjective emotional state. The Ocean, for example, is beautiful and heavenly one moment, and a harbinger of death and cosmic indifference the next.
A unique book by a troubled man. Jack Kerouac eventually succumbed to the very alcoholism he deals with in this book, which makes the story even more pertinent, interesting, and ultimately, tragic.