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am 30. November 2014
Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) would not achieve fame until the late 1950s, when a wave of interest in the Beat Movement installed him as "King of the Beats", a title, he was very uncomfortable with. Nevertheless, he rode the epic wave that started in the 1940s metropolis on the Hudson River and its epicenter Columbia. It was overwhelmed with Eastern religions, most notably Zen Buddhism and grew in the 1950s through interaction in San Francisco, carrying the counterculture's growing fascination to California. It is best described in Kerouac's own definition how the Beat Movement was a vision "of a generation of crazy, illuminated hipsters suddenly rising and roaming America, serious, bumming and hitchhiking everywhere, ragged, beatific, beautiful in an ugly graceful new way - a vision gleaned from the way we had heard the word `beat' spoken on streetcorners on Times Square and in the Village, in other cities in the downtown city night of postwar America... We'd stay up 24 hours drinking cup after cup of black coffee, playing record after record of Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Willie Jackson, Lennie Tristano and all the rest, talking madly about that holy new feeling out there in the streets."

Dharma Bums was published in 1958, just about one year after the trail-blazing On the Road, Kerouac's quasi-autobiographical tale, had put the Beat movement on the literary map. Dharma Bums is a comparable novel but weighs in with more substance on truth or "dharma." The protagonists are two ebullient young men - the narrator Ray Smith, based on Kerouac, and Japhy Ryder, based on the poet and essayist Gary Snyder - are engaged in a passionate search for the elusive enlightenment through dharma - a search that involves them, together or separately, in a series of free-wheeling explorations, both sacred and profane. Their major adventure is the pursuit of the Zen way, "which takes them climbing into the high Sierras to seek the experience of solitude" Kerouac's account of the climb is a spectacular foray into nature writing and bull's eye prophecy - a forecast of the 1960s cultural revolution: "millions of young Americans wandering visions of eternal freedom to everybody..." The role he saw for himself as a dharma bum was derived from the Diamond Sutra, which held that "Great Being of Enlightenment, in teaching the Verity to others, should first free themselves from all exquisite of disgusting tastes." An experience that was hard to lecture in the pagan netherlands of San Francisco's Bohemia with its grandiose wine-drinking carnival, poetry jam sessions, experiments in Yab-Yum, and similar non-ascetic pastimes. But through it all the two young men remain devoted to their search as Truth Bums, and when we finally take leave of them, each has caught sight of his goal and is on the road to it.

Though Kerouac himself viewed Dharma Bums as hackwork, yet without reverting to traditional fictional technique, he succeeded in molding and shaping his material into a dramatic and coherent narrative that conveyed his themes with power and precision, yet retained his trademark stream of consciousness and jazzy, hopped-up rhythm. Those who regard Kerouac's style outdated should take into account that the New York Times wrote as late as 1998, they should not be surprised that he is once again in vogue among young readers. Kerouac's gallery of Beat prototypes, also included contemporary actors like Montgomery Clift, or Marlon Brando, also hard-boiled private eye types like Humphrey Bogart had an honored place, as did Peter Lorre.
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am 19. April 2017
A witty, moving philosophical novel, Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums is a journey of self-discovery through the lens of Zen Buddhist thought. This Penguin Modern Classics edition includes an introduction by Ann Douglas.
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am 6. Januar 2000
I have been to California and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but after reading this thought provoking novel I realized I have never been there. Before I was just going through the motions of a tourist. Now when I go back(hopefully this Summer)I am really going to experience the beauty of the mountains and nature. This novel stirred up some very powerful emotions inside of me such as living life how I want to live it, not how everybody else wants me to live it (Up to this point in my life I am not sure I have been doing that). If it was not currently Winter I would be heading toward the American West with my rucksack, ready to climb the mountain. Read this novel I guarantee you it will be a rewarding experience.
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am 19. Mai 1999
Many a time an author decides a novel, should refelct one's life. And we see that Kerouac contains this belief. "Dharma Bums" was a beautiful description of Kerouac's interaction with Gary Snyder, one of the great Beat poets located in San Francisco. This book, not only amazed people about with it's writing, but launched an entire idea of American Buhdism. Many say that On the Road is Jack's best book, but my opinion is that On the Road is a pop version of Dharma Bums. But that is my educated opinion, my personal opinion is that I love this book. Kerouac has been a large influence on my life. As a child my mother and cousin would read me poetry and novels from the beat generation, naturally the older I got the more I started to appreciate the writing. But through it all Dharma Bums is still my favorite (W/ Cassidy's letters to Jack a close second). I recommend this book whole heartly to any individual who truly loves literture, too often this generation gets written off as a bunch of drunks, but Hemmingway and Lost gen members are remembered as a group of talented writers, they had a couple in their day. So give these writers a chance, and start with this book.
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am 7. Juli 1996
This is an absolute must for anyone who's found that Kerouac
Knows...Mix a bit of Buddha in with his wild prose and
innate fondness for cheap wine and wandering -- then throw
it around the skies of North America -- you've got the real
journeyman's bible. On the Road did start the whole thing;
no denying. But this is where Jack shines and shows it all
all all, When he's writing his Golden Scriptures in the snow
and just being in a way we've forgotten how. Kerouac IS the
Teacher, and if you pick this spiritual textbook up you will
start to see everything that's been on your soul.
The man can tell you where he and his brothers and therefore
humanity took the turns. When you flip through this book on
a rainy afternoon of your own Dharma discovery EVERY page is
making you agree. You'll yes your way through and stop
wishing for the answers. Close your eyes and dive into his
madman's world of angels on Mountaintops and in the city
streets...I Know you won't regret.

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am 22. August 1998
this book is one of my favorite kerouac novels. with each new reading i find something more insightful than the time before.the book has a mixture of catholic and zen buddhist terms and ideas all expounded by a hobo boddhisattva named ray smith. smith finds friendship with a find assortment of zen lunatics most notably the protaganist japhy ryder, who becomes a buddhist icon of sorts to smith. the first reading of the book one is impressed with the holy wander smith . but with subsequent readings i found that kerouac really intended to make smith more of a buddhist bumbler and those he encountered actually his wise teachers. percieving the novel in this light makes one appreciate kerouac's genius as a novelist. but to really appreciate what kerouac speaks of in the novel one should also read kerouac's desolation angels and some of the dharma. these two books will further enlighten the reader on the power of kerouac the spiritual writer.
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am 4. September 1999
This was the first book I have ever read on Kerouac, I got so interested In is writing that Im now on a second. To me, Jack felt constrained by the frailty of the human body and its overall worthlessness in the whole scheme of things. This book tells his story about a chance meeting with a Zen buddhist called Japhy Ryder who Kerouac respected deeply, he talks of his travels on freight trains along the coast and trips hiking up mountains, in essence he thought too much and the more he thought the more constrained he felt.
His best line in the book was "I spent a whole year being celibate in the belief that lust was the direct cause of birth which was the direct source of suffering and pain"
Its a good book, hard to understand in parts if your not American but it was interesting and witty.
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am 9. April 1998
I don't usually appreciate rambling, hundred-word sentences, but somehow that works in Dharma Bums. The free-wheeling sentence structure is dense with description of the land Ray Smith traverses, parties, wine-drinking, poetry-reciting sessions, and how all that ties in with his particular brand of Buddhism. I was never sure where they were going to go next. The payoff for me was near the end, where he heads up to Washington state, ultimately arriving at his fire lookout on remote Desolation Peak in the North Cascades. That's not far from my house, and though much has changed since the '50s, a lot of his description of the trip from Seattle up to the mountain still rings true today. So that's my favorite part of the book, but the whole thing was enjoyable for me. Just don't look for a plot to drive this thing.
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am 8. Juni 1998
As a Californian, frequenter of the Sierra Nevadas, as well as a college student who obsesses over fine American Literature, I found this work to be perhaps the most well written piece of beat fiction i've read. Contrary to popular belief, I feel this is a much more mature and insightful piece than "On the Road" (not to take anything from the brilliance of Kerouac's breakthrough work) and should be held in reverence by literature and philosophy enthusiasts across the globe. Japhy Ryder's Buddha representation, as well as Kerouac's struggle to incorporate his new discovery of traditional buddhism with his original Catholic upbringing are representative of the Western Frontier of Eastern Thought, which is becoming more popular even today, thanks to the likes of Jack Kerouac. Bravo!
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am 29. Oktober 1997
A somewhat sad story...The protagonist, a dis-spirited, wistful, melancholy soul, who's "haddit" with middleclass, American society (who hasn't) and - with constant refills of his huge, bottomless wine goblet - hits the Highroad, full of Zen, Buddha, etc...I was just waiting for this guys liver to simply explode from his body...Reminded me a bit of "Catcher in the Rye" (odd), "Into the Wild", "Easy Rider" and, in a more odd way, Hongo's "Volcano"...This theme of restlessness, discontent, (self?) dissatisfaction...And never quite finding a Home. Never - even with the aid of horrific amounts of booze - not quite Settling In. I wonder about Kerouac's State of Being - minus the alcohol... Sad, not triumphant, story.
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