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Duluoz Legend

Desolation Angels

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The classic autobiographical novel by Jack Kerouac featuring "one of the most true, comic, and grizzly journeys in American literature" ( Time )—now in a new edition

Originally published in 1965, this autobiographical novel covers a key year in Jack Kerouac's life—the period that led up to the publication of On the Road in September of 1957. After spending two months in the summer of 1956 as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington, Kerouac's fictional self Jack Duluoz comes down from the isolated mountains to the wild excitement of the bars, jazz clubs, and parties of San Francisco, before traveling on to Mexico City, New York, Tangiers, Paris, and London. Duluoz attempts to extricate himself from the world but fails, for one must "live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry." Desolation Angels is quintessential Kerouac.

409 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1958

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About the author

Jack Kerouac

326 books10.2k followers
Autobiographical novels, such as On the Road (1957) and The Dharma Bums (1958), of American writer Jack Kerouac, originally Jean-Louis Kerouac, embody the values of the Beat Generation.

Career of Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac began in the 1940s but met not with commercial success until 1957, when people published On the Road. The book, an American classic, defined the Beat Generation. Kerouac died from an abdominal hemorrhage.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 427 reviews
Profile Image for Laura.
65 reviews28 followers
September 13, 2010
This book is the best reason I can think of for anyone ever learning to read. I've spent most of it with my mouth - metaphorically - hanging open, and my heart perpetually glowing and breaking along with Kerouac's various and numerous highs and lows. Can you be in love with someone who died years before you were even a twinkle in the eye of the universe? I think so.

This is not On the Road, and On the Road is nothing by comparison. That is, if there can be any other piece of writing that could even come close to being comparable with Desolation Angels. Of course, from somewhere and someone there will be, but with the same kind of sincerity and authenticity that Kerouac delivers? I seriously doubt it. The things he sees and thinks and writes, they're gorgeous, uplifting, insane, horrific, and sometimes bleak beyond belief. But through it all there is a shocking sweetness and sometimes earnest naivety from Kerouac himself, which endears so much about the world to - I'm certain - anyone who reads it.

I still don't believe in God, but Kerouac has given me the best reasons why belief is still important, and can still be beautiful. Oh, and the temptation to hop on a train and disappear into the unknown, is a force to contend with once finished...

You know when you've just finished reading something utterly wonderful, and you feel all pretentiously gob-smacked that your brain has been irrevocably changed? My poor brain! There's no going back.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,495 reviews2,381 followers
April 16, 2018
Described by some as Kerouac's best work, Desolation Angels contains everything you would come to expect from a key writer of the Beat Generation, with an abundance of Jack's sometimes difficult to grasp Spontaneous Prose. This was such a mixed bag for me, from the stream of his semi-conscious jazz-like rhythm fuzzy beatnik mind, to the more clearer and poignant writing later on that chronicles the travelling lives of himself, his friends, including Irwin Garden (Allen Ginsberg) and Bull Hubbard (William Burroughs), Cody Pomeray (Neal Cassady) and towards the end, an emotive journey with his own mother. Even William Carlos Williams gets a brief appearance later on.

The biggest problem came in the first one-hundred pages or so, thrown straight into the deep end with some egocentric text that I struggled to fathom. Jack Duluoz (Kerouac) spends an age stuck on a mountain (desolation peak) recording a long hot summer fire-watching, searching for spiritual meaning, and just getting high. A lot of what he rabbles on about didn't make a blind bit of sense, but still somehow through the blurry images managed to convey a feeling of loneliness and isolation, creating an epiphany rooted solely in the self, before finally plodding on down to life below, and where his writing started to pick up. Not just slightly, but massively. For me though, the best this book had to offer didn't happen until past the mid-way point, simply because it was more reader friendly.

Whether travelling with a purpose, or just aimlessly wandering, you get the sense of importance not just through miles covered, but an internal journey shaping his life. He proceeds to travel south, down the West Coast of America, staying in San Francisco, on into Mexico where he falls in with his buddies, back north to New York, before a ships voyage to Tangiers that seemed to be the drugs capital of the world, before a knackered Duluoz finally takes in Paris and London (albeit briefly). Heading back to the States he embarks on a trip with his mother through Florida, Texas, the tip of Mexico and California again. This was him at his most affecting as a writer. Many people he runs into, whether those he knows or his proper friends who feature regularly seem to live a constant stream of reading, writing, drinking, smoking, some screwing with prostitutes and drug taking. It sounds like a blast them having the time of their lives, but for the reader there is sometimes so much crammed in to short passages it's hard to keep up on what's what. There is a little misogyny, and a few below the belt occurrences, but for a book of this nature that's to be expected.

I am not suddenly going to turn into a big admirer of kerouac's work. His poetry didn't connect with me at all. I never got to finish 'On the Road', and are in no hurry to read him again any time soon. But this was my best kerouac experience to date. It took a while to get going, had some great moments both funny and moving, and I appreciate his unique style a little more now.
Two stars for the first third, three to four for everything else.
Profile Image for P.E..
779 reviews558 followers
August 30, 2021
Fleeting Timelessness

'Because all these serious faces’ll drive you mad, the only meaning is without meaning– Music blends with the heartbeat universe and we forget the brain beat.'

'It’s me that’s changed and done all this and come and gone and complained and hurt and joyed and yelled, not the Void.'

Le cygne noir (1895) - William Degouve de Nuncques

In a nutshell, what truly put this autofiction work by Kerouac on a whole different level for me:

1) The demanding, perilous and tireless confrontation with the self and the images of the self. Images originating both in the main character on the one hand and his relatives and friends on the other hand.

2) The fundamental scepticism as regards any form of essential value. Which supposes a strong certitude, or a form of faith.
'Sad understanding is what compassion means–I resign from the attempt to be happy. It's all discrimination anyway, you value this and devalue that and go up and down but if you were like the void you'd only stare into space and in that space though you'd see stiffnecked people in their favorite various displaytory furs [...] you'd still be staring into space for form is emptiness and emptiness is form'

See Wittgenstein: “If you tried to doubt everything you would not get as far as doubting anything. The game of doubting itself presupposes certainty.”

This book retraces an intimate fight against nihilism.
'Like dying I saw all the years flash by, all the efforts my father had made to make living something to be interested about but only ending in death, blank death in the glare of automobile day, automobile cemeteries, whole parking lots of cemeteries everywhere.'

'One look at the officials in the American Consulate where we went for dreary paper routines was enough to make you realize what was wrong with American “diplomacy” throughout the Fellaheen world:—stiff officious squares with contempt even for their own Americans who happened not to wear neckties, as tho a necktie or whatever it stands for meant anything to the hungry Berbers who came into Tangiers every Saturday morning on meek asses, like Christ, carrying baskets of pitiful fruit or dates, and returned at dusk in silhouetted parades along the hill by the railroad track. The railroad track where barefooted prophets still walked and taught the Koran to children along the way. Why didnt the American consul ever walk into the urchin hall where Mohammed Mayé sat smoking? or squat in behind empty buildings with old Arabs who talked with their hands? or any thing? Instead it’s all private limousines, hotel restaurants, parties in the suburbs, an endless phoney rejection in the name of “democracy” of all that’s pith and moment of every land.'

'At night at my desk in the shack I see the reflection of myself in the black window, a rugged faced man in a dirty ragged shirt, need-a-shave, frowny, lipped, eyed, haired, nosed, eared, handed, necked, adamsappled, eyebrowed, a reflection just with all behind it the void of 7000000000000 light years of infinite darkness riddled by arbitrary limited-idea light, and yet there's a twinkle in my eye and I sing bawdy songs about the moon in the alleys of Dublin, about vodka hoy hoy, and then said Mexico sundown-over-rocks songs about amor, corazón, and tequila - My desk is littered with papers, beautiful to look at thru half closed eyes the delicate milky litter of papers piled, like some old dream of a picture of papers, like papers piled on a desk in a cartoon, like a realistic scene from an old Russian film, and the oil lamp shadowing some in half - And looking at my face closer in the tin mirror, I see the blue eyes and sun red face and red lips and weekly beard and think: 'Courage it takes to live and face all this iron impasse of die-you-dool? Nah, when all is said and done it doesn't matter.' '

2bis) Kerouac looks for a more genuinely personal way of life, looking for his place, not a posture, but a part in life, looking for a place to call his own, values to call his own:
'It was a little sad. Bull would be too tired to go out so Irwin and Simon would call up to me from the garden just like little kids calling at your childhood window, “Jack-Kee!” which would bring tears to my eyes almost and force me to go down and join them. “Why are you so withdrawn all of a sudden!” cried Simon. I couldnt explain it without telling them they bored me as well as everything else, a strange thing to have to say to people you’ve spent years with, all the lacrimae rerum of sweet association across the hopeless world dark, so dont say anything.'

'My money came and it was time to go but there’s poor Irwin at midnight calling up to me from the garden “Come on down Jack-Kee, there’s a big bunch of hipsters and chicks from Paris in Bull’s room.” And just like in New York or Frisco or anywhere there they are all hunching around in marijuana smoke, talking, the cool girls with long thin legs in slacks, the men with goatees, all an enormous drag after all and at the time (1957) not even started yet officially with the name of “Beat Generation.” To think that I had so much to do with it, too, in fact at that very moment the manuscript of Road was being linotyped for imminent publication and I was already sick of the whole subject. Nothing can be more dreary than “coolness” (not Irwin’s cool, or Bull’s or Simon’s, which is natural quietness) but postured, actually secretly rigid coolness that covers up the fact that the character is unable to convey anything of force or interest, a kind of sociological coolness soon to become a fad up into the mass of middleclass youth for awhile. There’s even a kind of insultingness, probably unintentional, like when I said to the Paris girl just fresh she said from visiting a Persian Shah for Tiger hunt “Did you actually shoot the tiger yourself?” she gave me a cold look as tho I’d just tried to kiss her at the window of a Drama School. Or tried to trip the Huntress. Or something. But all I could do was sit on the edge of the bed in despair like Lazarus listening to their awful “likes” and “like you know” and “wow crazy” and “a wig, man” “a real gas”—All this was about to sprout out all over America even down to High School level and be attributed in part to my doing! But Irwin paid no attention to all that and just wanted to know what they were thinking anyway.'

'And now, after the experience on top of the mountain where I was alone for two months without being questioned or looked at by any single human being I began a complete turnabout in my feelings about life—I now wanted a reproduction of that absolute peace in the world of society but secretly greedy too for some of the pleasures of society (such as shows, sex, comforts, fine foods & drink), no such things on a mountain—I knew now that my life was a search for peace as an artist, but not only as an artist—As a man of contemplations rather than too many actions, in the old Tao Chinese sense of “Do Nothing” (Wu Wei) which is a way of life in itself more beautiful than any, a kind of cloistral fervor in the midst of mad ranting action-seekers of this or any other “modern” world—'

'I'm 34, regular looking, but in my jeans and eerie outfits people are scared to look at me because I really look like an escaped mental patient with enough physical strength and innate dog-sense to manage outside of an institution to feed myself and go from place to place in a world growing gradually narrower in its views about eccentricity every day. Walking thru towns in the middle of America I got stared at weirdly. I was bound to live my own way. The expression 'nonconformity' was something I'd vaguely heard about somewhere (Adler? Eric Fromm?). But I was determined to be glad! Dostoevsky said 'Give man his Utopia and he will deliberately destroy it with a grin' and I was determined with the same grin to disprove Dostoevsky!' '[...] since it’s impossible for everybody to be artists, to recommend my way of life as a philosophy suitable for everyone else—In this respect I’m an oddball, like Rembrandt—Rembrandt could paint the busy burghers as they posed after lunch, but at midnight while they slept to rest for another day’s work, Old Rembrandt was up in his study putting on light touches of darkness to his canvases—The burghers didnt expect Rembrandt to be anything else but an artist and therefore they didnt go knocking on his door at midnight and ask: “Why do you live like this, Rembrandt? Why are you alone tonight? What are you dreaming about?” So they didnt expect Rembrandt to turn around and say to them: “You must live like I do, in the philosophy of solitude, there’s no other way.”'

'And also dont think of me as a simple character—A lecher, a ship-jumper, a loafer, a conner of older women, even of queers, an idiot, nay a drunken baby Indian when drinking—Got socked everywhere and never socked back (except when young tough football player)—In fact, I dont even know what I was—Some kind of fevered being different as a snowflake. (Now talking like Simon, who comes up ahead.) In any case, a wondrous mess of contradictions (good enough, said Whitman) but more fit for Holy Russia of 19th Century than for this modern America of crew cuts and sullen faces in Pontiacs—'

'God how right Hemingway was when he said there was no remedy for life—and to think that negative little paper shuffling prissies should write condescending obituaries about a man who told the truth, nay who drew breath in pain to tell a tale like that!… No remedy but in my mind I raise a fist to High Heaven promising that I shall bull whip the first bastard who makes fun of human hopelessness anyway—I know it’s ridiculous to pray to my father that hunk of dung in a grave yet I pray to him anyway, what else shall I do? sneer? shuffle paper on a desk and burp with rationality? Ah thank God for all the Rationalists the worms and vermin got. Thank God for all the hate mongering political pamphleteers with no left or right to yell about in the Grave of Space. I say that we shall all be reborn with The Only One, that we will not be ourselves any more but simply the Companion of The Only One, and that’s what makes me go on, and my mother too. She has her rosary in the bus, dont deny her that, that’s her way of stating the fact. If there cant be love among men let there be love at least between men and God. Human courage is an opiate but opiates are human too. If God is an opiate so am I. Therefore eat me. Eat the night, the long desolate America between Sanford and Shlamford and Blamford and Crapford, eat the hematodes that hang parasitically from dreary southern trees, eat the blood in the ground, the dead Indians, the dead pioneers, the dead Fords and Pontiacs, the dead Mississippis, the dead arms of forlorn hopelessness washing underneath—Who are men, that they can insult men? Who are these people who wear pants and dresses and sneer? What am I talking about? I’m talking about human helplessness and unbelievable loneliness in the darkness of birth and death and asking “What is there to laugh about in that?” “How can you be clever in a meatgrinder?” “Who makes fun of misery?” There’s my mother a hunk of flesh that didnt ask to be born, sleeping restlessly, dreaming hopefully, beside her son who also didnt ask to be born, thinking desperately, praying hopelessly, in a bouncing earthly vehicle going from nowhere to nowhere, all in the night, worst of all for that matter all in noonday glare of bestial Gulf Coast roads—Where is the rock that will sustain us? Why are we here? What kind of crazy college would feature a seminar where people talk about hopelessness, forever?'

'A fine thing to say in this day and age! And especially with the wild life he was now leading that was going to end in tragedy in six months, as I’ll tell in a minute—A fine thing to be talking about angels in this day when common thieves smash the holy rosaries of their victims in the street … When the highest ideals on earth are based on the month and the day of some cruel bloody revolution, nay when the highest ideals are simply new reasons for murdering and despoiling people—And Angels?'

3) And this raging fight, against the very fundamental elements of reality, is fought by Kerouac with nothing but painful honesty, humanity, and humour, and writing.
'Raphael in the middle hearing nothing and seeing nothing but just looking straight ahead, like Buddha, and the driver of the Heavenly Vehicle (the full Oxcart Bullock White-as-Snow Number One Team) talking earnestly about numbers, waving with one hand, and the third person or angel listening with surprise.'

'“Random and Urso argue with me about my theory of absolute spontaneity. In the kitchen, Random takes out the Jack Daniel’s and says, “How can you get any refined or well-gestated thoughts into a spontaneous flow, as you call it? It can all end up in gibberish”. And that was no Harvard lie. But I said:
”If it’s gibberish, it’s gibberish. There’s a certain amount of control going on, like a man telling a story in a bar without interruptions or even one pause.”
– “Well, it’ll probably become a popular gimmick, but I prefer to look on my poetry as a craft.”
– “Craft is craft”
– “Yes, meaning?”
– “Meaning crafty. How can you confess your crafty soul in craft?'

It also reflects the part played by Kerouac during the writing/montage/composition of Naked Lunch.

And finally:
'Here now I’m telling about the most important person in this whole story and the best. I’ve noticed how most of my fellow writers all seem to “hate” their mothers and make big Freudian or sociological philosophies around that, in fact using it as the straight theme of their fantasies, or at least saying as much—I often wonder if they’ve ever slept till four in the afternoon and woke up to see their mother darning their socks in a sad window light, or come back from revolutionary horrors of weekends to see her mending the rips in a bloody shirt with quiet eternal bowed head over needle—And not with martyred pose of resentment, either, but actually seriously bemused over mending, the mending of torture and folly and all loss, mending the very days of your life with almost glad purposeful gravity—And when it’s cold she puts on that shawl, and mends on, and on the stove potatoes are burbling forever.'

Whistler's Mother (1871) - James McNeill Whistler

Also read:

- Absurd, Transcendentalism and Nihilism:
Earthly Powers
The Transmigration of Timothy Archer
Jude the Obscure
The Decay of the Angel

- Deep dive into the self:
The Book of Disquiet
La Déchéance d'un homme

- Materialism:
Contes Cruels
Exégèse Des Lieux Communs
Les Choses: Une histoire des années soixante
La Montagne morte de la vie
Le Déclin du courage
Into the Wild

- Other lives on the fringes of society:
I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft, Volume 1
I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H. P. Lovecraft, Volume 2
Ham on Rye

- Drinking bouts & extravaganza:
Under the Volcano
Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises

- Part from the Duluoz Legend cycle:
The Dharma Bums
On the Road: the Original Scroll
Big Sur

Ambient Soundtrack:
Soon - Yes
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,468 reviews3,635 followers
February 10, 2017
“My life is a vast and insane legend reaching everywhere without beginning or ending, like the Void – like Samsara – A thousand memories come like tics all day perturbing my vital mind with almost muscular spasms of clarity and recall…”
Solitude isn’t for Jack Kerouac – alone on the mountain peak he is tortured and intimidated by loneliness and gets bored with it.
“…the vision of the freedom of eternity which I saw and which all wilderness hermitage saints have seen, is of little use in cities and warring societies such as we have…”
So back to the madding crowd where Jack Kerouac does belong…
“Now everything is too cool for a fight, now it’s jazz, the place is roaring, all beautiful girls in there, one mad brunette at the bar drunk with her boys – One strange chick I remember from somewhere, wearing a simple skirt with pockets, her hands in there, short haircut, slouched, talking to everybody – Up and down the stairs they come – The bartenders are the regular band of Jack, and the heavenly drummer who looks up in the sky with blue eyes, with a beard, is wailing beer-caps of bottles and jamming on the cash register and everything is going to the beat – It’s the beat generation, it’s béat, it’s the beat to keep, it’s the beat of the heart, it’s being beat and down in the world and like oldtime lowdown and like in ancient civilizations the slave boatmen rowing galleys to a beat and servants spinning pottery to a beat – The faces!”
Beatniks seem to have existed only to burn their lives – like those moths circling around a candle flame – disoriented and hypnotized desolation angels.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,593 reviews2,825 followers
February 27, 2022
New German translation: Engel der Trübsal (The old, incomplete German translation was titled Engel, Kif und neue Länder - WTF???)
Kerouac is having a spiritual crisis, and his inner and outer movement has a more pathological angle here than in On the Road. "Desolation Angels" was first published in 1965, and the book tells the story of Kerouac's life in the year before the publication of On the Road (1957). The first 100 pages are him spending two months alone at Desolation Peak, WA, which drives him into a deep alienation and depression - than the Catholic comes down from the mountain to get on the road again, first with his friends, then with his mother. traveling in the US, Mexico and Europe.

Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac was already 35 when his second novel "On the Road" was published and finally made him famous. Before that, Kerouac had slowly become more and more miserable: He had lost his dreams to become a football star at Columbia University and dropped out, he was discharged from the Navy on psychiatric grounds, he was taken in as a material witness in the murder of David Kammerer (for more info, consult And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks); he was twice divorced, had worked odd jobs, traveled around and maintained a concerningly close relationship to his mother, who had to take him in and give him money again and again. His whole family was concerned because Jack could not live self-reliantly and was by then already a heavy drinker and pot smoker.

At the same time, he was deeply convinced of his own genius and worked to create his own literary legend, the Legend of Duluoz (duluoz meaning „louse“ in Kerouac’s French-Canadian dialect). The crisis resulting from his situation is reflected in the book, as well as his spiritual search: Kerouac was born a Catholic, but his pals Allen Ginsberg and especially Gary Snyder were Buddhist scholars, and Kerouac, in his desperation, turned to Buddhism, but ultimately without much success.

The language is Kerouac's typical jazz-inspired spontaneous prose / sketches, but mixed with religious outbursts, and beat / beautitude merge with desolation, referring to (Catholic) martyrdom. Kerouac might have been the most unpolitical of the Beats, but his personal plight certainly had a political dimension.

A great entry to the Legend of Duluoz (although the engimatic first 100 pages are a strugle), I'll tackle Tristessa next.
Profile Image for Matthew Ted.
768 reviews662 followers
May 8, 2020
72nd book of 2020.

This is my 8th Kerouac now - And though not my favourite (that is still Big Sur - review here), this is still a great read.

Desolation Angels begins again, where we are left at the end of The Dharma Bums - at the top of the mountain as a fire-warden. Then we traverse not only America but Mexico, Tangiers and England. The most interesting part for me was the short section in Tangiers with writer William S. Burroughs. Neal Cassady returns too (Dean Moriarty in On the Road) as Cody. So, we have many returning characters.

I have to record this short discussion between Kerouac and Burroughs, referring to the shocking nature of the images in Burroughs' work. Kerouac is speaking first.

'Why are all these young boys in white shirts being hanged in limestone caves?'
'Dont ask me - I get these messagesfrom other planets - I'm apparently some kind of agent from another planet but I havent got all my orders clearly decoded yet.'
'But why all the vile rheum - like r-h-e-u-m.'
'I'm shitting out my educated Middlewest background for once and for all. It's a matter of catharsis where I say the most horrible thing I can think of- Realise that, the most horrible dirty slimy awful niggardliest posture possible - By the time I finish this book I'll be pure as an angel, my dear. These great existential anarchists and terrorists so-called never even their own drippy fly mentioneth, dear - They should poke sticks thru their shit and analyse that for social progress.'
'But where'll all this shit get us?'
'Simply get us rid of shit, really Jack.' He whips out (it's 4 p.m.) the afternoon's aperitif cognac bottle. We both sigh to see it.

Kerouac also gives us beautiful writing, as expected, and at the end, honest and heartfelt writing about his mother. There is a lot on the internet, and in biographies, about Kerouac and his mother- how he (I'm paraphrasing some quote I remember here): 'never freed himself from her apron strings' - never could 'escape' her. He loved her 'too' much.

But anyway - I'm here for Kerouac's unwavering voice, and beautiful writing:

But how can I ever forget even madder Fall in the Skagit Valley where it would whip the silver ooing moon with slavers of cold mist, smelling of orchards, and tar rooftops with night-ink colours that smelt as rich as frankincense, woodsmoke, leafsmoke, river rain, the smell of the cold on your kneepants, the smell of doors opening, the door of Summer's opened and let in brief glee-y fall with his apple smile, behind him old sparkly winter hobbles
Profile Image for Laura González.
20 reviews47 followers
October 1, 2023
Ángeles de Desolación es el libro más introspectivo y triste de Kerouac: el más humano. Sin embargo, y a pesar de ser una gran seguidora de su obra, se me hizo pesado y desconecté a menudo de su prosa espontánea cargada de un egocentrismo demente que me incomodó mucho.

Tal vez lo que más me gustó fueron las palabras que dedica a su madre en las páginas finales del libro, como las que dejo a continuación, muy conmovedoras:

Voy a hablar ahora de la persona más importante de toda esta historia, y la mejor. He notado que casi todos los colegas de la pluma parecen «odiar» a sus madres y construyen grandes filosofías freudianas o sociológicas alrededor de ello, [....]. A menudo me pregunto si alguna vez han dormido hasta las cuatro de la tarde y visto a su madre al despertar zurciéndoles los calcetines a la luz que entra por una triste ventana o si al volver de los horrores revolucionarios de los fines de semana la han visto remendar los sietes de una camisa manchada de sangre con la silenciosa cabeza eternamente inclinada sobre la aguja. Y no con la resentida pose del martirio, no, sino sincera y seriamente desconcertada por tener que "remendar", remendar la tortura, la locura y toda clase de pérdidas, remendar todos los días de tu vida con una gravedad casi alegre y misionera. Y cuando hace frío, se pone el chal y sigue remendando, y en la cocina las patatas no paran de hervir. Poniendo furiosos a algunos neuróticos que ven estas muestras de salud en una casa. Poniéndome a mí furioso a veces porque he sido tan imprudente que he roto la camisa, he perdido los zapatos, y he perdido y hecho trizas la esperanza en esa imbecilidad llamada existencia "salvaje". [...] desgarrarme la camisa, sólo para que mi madre, dos días después, se siente a remendar esa misma prenda, porque es una camisa y es mía, de su hijo. [...] Y cuando la camisa ya no tenía remedio, la lavaba y la guardaba «para poner remiendos» o para convertirla en trapo de fregar. En uno de esos trapos he reconocido tres decenios de vida atormentada, no sólo mía, sino de ella, de mi padre, de mi hermana. Habría remendado hasta la tumba y la habría usado, si hubiera sido posible.
Profile Image for robin friedman.
1,815 reviews242 followers
October 28, 2022
Loneliness And Restlessness On Desolation Peak

After reading the memoirs of Helen Weaver 'The Awakener: A Memoir of Kerouac" and Joyce Johnson (Glassman) "Minor Characters", I wanted to read Kerouac's novel "Desolation Angels". Kerouac had a short relationship with Weaver in 1956 followed by a longer relationship with Johnson. In "Desolation Angels", Kerouac describes his relationship with these women from his own perspective. There is much more to the book.

"Desolation Angels" is the most literally autobiographical of Kerouac's novels, with the author frequently only slightly changing the names of his friends and supporting characters. The book covers about one year in Kerouac's life, from the summer, 1956, to late 1957, just before the New York Times published a favorable review of "On the Road" which took Kerouac from obscurity to fame. The book is in two large sections (called "books") written at different times and in different styles. Kerouac wrote book one titled "Desolation Angels" in 1956-1957 shortly after the events it describes. The book is written in the spontaneous, associative stream-of-consciousness style that characterizes Kerouac's best-known work. It was rejected for publication in 1957.

In 1961, when Kerouac was in the middle of a long decline, he wrote the second book of what became "Desolation Angels", titled "Passing Through" while living in Mexico. Kerouac's writing in this second book, which includes his relationships with Weaver and Glassman, is more straightforward narrative than in the first book. Kerouac thought of publishing each part as separate works but decided to combine the two together. The result is "Desolation Angels" first published in 1965. The current edition of the book, which dates from 1995, begins with a valuable introduction by Joyce Johnson.

In the summer of 1956, Kerouac worked for two months in western Washington in isolation on a fire tower on Desolation Peak. Kerouac thought he would be able to use this period of isolation for meditation and gaining control of his life. He soon found himself, however, missing friends, companionship and every day activity. Kerouac reflects on his surroundings, on his family, and on his earlier life in short, stream-of-conscious sections before he comes down from the mountain to rejoin the world. A sense of religious and philosophical meditation, which includes a great deal of Buddhism, also pervades Kerouac's discussion of his time on Desolation Peak and the novel as a whole.

The remainder of book one describes Kerouac's descent from the mountain and hitchhiking through Portland to San Francisco. He spends a riotous week with his friends in the middle of the San Francisco Poetry renaissance, but the best scenes are of Kerouac and his friends having fun and walking the streets. Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsburg, and Gregory Corso, with slightly changed names, play important roles. The sense of dissatisfaction and the need to move on, whether alone on Desolation Peak or with friends, is critical to Kerouac. Unhappy in San Francisco, he sets off for Mexico.

The aptly titled "Passing Through", book two of the work, describes Kerouac's continued restlessness, spiritual questioning, and dizzying journeys to Mexico, New York City, Tangiers, France, back to New York, California, and New York again. When he wrote "Passing Through" in 1961, Kerouac was famous.. He was seriously troubled by the faddish attention given to the so-called "Beat Movement" which he had not intended to create. In "Passing Through", Kerouac describes how "On the Road" is accepted for publication, but he makes relatively little of this.. In many places, Kerouac addresses his readers directly and intimately. Thus, early in book two he cautions his readers:

"And also dont think of me as a simple character-- A lecher, a ship-jumper, a loafer, a conner of older women, even of queers, an idiot, nay a drunken baby Indian when drinking--- Got socked everywhere and never socked back (except when young tough football player)-- In fact, I don't even know what I was-- Some kind of fevered being different as a snowflake....In any case, a wondrous mess of contradictions (good enough, said Whitman) but morefit for the Holy Russia of the 19th Century than for this modern America of crew cuts and sullen faces in Pontiacs--".

The scenes in Mexico City, with Bill Burroughs in Tangiers, and particularly with his mother in a long, disastrous trip to California are as good as the scenes with Weaver and Johnson.

This book captures a great deal of Kerouac and his contradictions. It shows a man who loved and tried to savor the common experiences of life, his friends, lovers, and food, and yet suffered from an inner loneliness and restlessness. Wherever he was, Kerouac felt he had to be somewhere else. Alcoholism and drugs and wandering inexorably took their toll. The story is told in "Desolation Angels" with strong religious overtones. The spirituality in this book is complex and unsystematized. It includes Buddhism, Catholicism and simple living in the here and now but does not reduce to any formula. I found the spiritual quest theme of this book challenging and moving.

"Desolation Angels" is a difficult mixed book, with eloquent writing together with portions that are less successful. The work gradually won me over as a read into it. This book will be of greatest interest to readers with a strong passion for Kerouac who have read, for example, "On the Road", "The Dharma Bums" and "Tristessa". These three novels are all available in the Library of America's excellent volume of Kerouac's "Road Novels". "Desolation Angels" itself is not included in any LOA volume of Kerouac.

Robin Friedman
Profile Image for Joscha.
7 reviews9 followers
May 14, 2009
Desolation Angels starts where Kerouac left us at the end of The Dharma Bums. On Desolation Peak. Although the two books kind of flow into each other you will notice that Kerouac has changed. After the thrilling and fervid On The Road he became more quiet and meditative. He still has that excitement for life and experience and that somehow never ending urge to be on the road and hang out with his old Beat buddies but eventually he can't identify with the spirit of the so called Beat Generation anymore. Throughout the book he spends lots of time in solitude - thinking, drinking and writing. Some of these passages have been a little challenging if not boring to me. I don't know, it seems you have to be in a certain mood to feel Kerouacs writing because sometimes, I experienced the truth of his words so intensely I thought that every single sentence has to be carved in stone and I wanted to go outside and yell it at the dreary people.
What should I say. It is a book about solitude, friendship and poetry. If you liked The Dharma Bums, Desolation Angels should follow.
Profile Image for Dava B.
13 reviews
June 26, 2009
My favourite Kerouac book so far. If there is a continuum of idealism, which starts from 'On the Road' and on through 'The Dharma Bums', it is at this book (which follows on from 'The Dharma Bums') that the cracks are really beginning to appear in Jack Kerouac's experience.

Yet to put it so simply feels like a crude summing up of what Jack Kerouac was really about. His ability to capture the highs, the lows, the humor and the horror of life is nothing short of inspiring. And who am I, really, to comment on such a great mind.

In the final chapter of this book, Kerouac writes (in relation to Neal Cassidy, though he is obviously making a wider point):

'He is a believer in life and he wants to go to Heaven but because he loves life so he embraces it so much he thinks he sins and will never see Heaven ... You could have ten thousand cold eyed Materialistic officials claim they love life too but can never embrace it so near sin and also never see Heaven - They will contemn the hot blooded life lover with their cold papers on a desk because they have no blood and therefore have no sin? No! They sin by lifelessness! They are the ogres of Law entering the Holy Realm of Sin!'

This is a typical moment in the book, where Kerouac merges poetry with prose, so that there is no clear distinction between the two. But it is what he is getting at here that felt so significant to me, something clearly beyond any idealistic view of the world and our experiences within.


Profile Image for sophia.
29 reviews2 followers
July 2, 2023
My heart is consumed by an unwavering love for Kerouac.

Within the pages of "Desolation Angels," a poignant and pivotal work that unfolds in the wake of his renowned "On the Road," one gains a deeper understanding of Kerouac's essence and the tapestry of events that shaped the Beat Generation. While "On the Road" immerses us in his journeys, friendships, and the shifting cultural landscape of America, this introspective masterpiece focuses solely on the enigmatic character of Kerouac himself.

Here, we encounter a Kerouac stripped bare, a revelation of his unfiltered truth. In "On the Road," Sal Paradise lacked the melancholy and the fractured soul that Kerouac carried with him across the vast expanse of America, from Tangier to Paris, London, and back to his homeland. It is in these pages that we witness his profound bond with his mother, his adoration for the people who populate his world.

Within these pages, the brotherhood between Ginsberg, Orlovsky, and Kerouac emerges, alongside the tender care he holds for Burroughs and the surprising revelations about his thoughts on Corso, for whom he harbored a deep admiration—a truth that shatters preconceived notions of animosity between them.

We are also privy to the emergence of Kerouac's poetic language, a precursor to the heightened prose found later in "On the Road," when he was fueled by opium or marijuana. We witness the impact of newfound fame on his life and his evolving perspective on America. In these early stages of his descent into depression, he grew weary of the so-called "hipster" generation, a movement that he himself, it is said, birthed.

Within the elegant prose "Desolation Angels" captures the essence of Kerouac's soul, laying bare his joys, sorrows, and the profound struggles that colored his existence. It is a testament to his enduring legacy, a poignant exploration that leaves an indelible mark on the reader's consciousness.

For those who wish to delve into the depths of Kerouac's being and witness the genesis of the Beat Generation, "Desolation Angels" is an essential read. It is a tender embrace of vulnerability, a testament to the power of literature to illuminate the innermost recesses of the human spirit.
Profile Image for Andy Miller.
845 reviews57 followers
November 25, 2012
While I truly loved On the Road, I was pleasantly surprised when I read Dharma Bums and found it to be an even better book. However, I found Desolation Angels somewhat of a disappointment

The book starts with his time as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the North Cascade, I've learned that this section of the book was mainly taken from the journals he wrote at the time--much of it deals with his musings on Buddhism and his life-and I found that part to be somewhat flat.More interesting was his discussion of his actual life on the lookout and the loneliness he clearly felt

The book continues with his reconnection to the beat writers when he returns to San Francisco. While there he tells Ginsburg, Cassidy and Corsi of his plans to take a freight train to Mexico and they laugh; in an example of Kerouac at his best he writes: But the laughter is genuinine, and I console myself with the reminder,embodied in the Tao of my Rememberance "The Sage who provokes laughter is more valuable than a well."

Kerouac does go to Mexico and here we also see Kerouac at his worst, a description of his encounter with a 14 year old prostitute. I'm including this writing, as offensive as it is, to remind us not to over romanticize Kerouac. Kerouac writes "my little girl leads me and starts washing unceremoniously in the squatting position. "Tres pesos" she says sternly, making sure to get her 24 cents before we start. When we do start she's so small you can't find her for at least a minute of probing. Then the rabbits run,like American high school kids running a mile a minute...But she is not particularly interested either. I find myself losing myself in her without one iota of trained responsibility holding me back"

Kerouac describes his next travels to New York and meeting different women, one of whom writes a foreword in the most recent edition. The writing here is again vintage "On the Road" Kerouac continues with his travels to Africa and Europe and this included the following poignant passage when he becomes homesick and wishes only for a box of Wheaties in an American kitchen

Many Americans suddenly sick in foreign lands must get the same childlike yen, like Wolfe suddenly remembering the lonely milkman's bottle clink at dawn in North Carolina as he lies there tormented in an Oxford room, or Hemingway suddenly seeing the autumn leaves of Ann Arbor in a Berlin brothel,Scott Fitz tears coming into his eyes in Spain to think of his father's old shoes in the farmhouse door."

That passage reminds me of the writer that Kerouac could have become if he had continued to evolve. Instead the book ends with his opening a box of the newly published "On the Road" and his reflections of the beat generation and what was hip and was what not, foreshadowing the disillusionment and spell that we all know sadly led to the isolated and bitter end of his life

Profile Image for East Bay J.
591 reviews20 followers
June 23, 2008
Of the many Beat writers, Burroughs and Kerouac are the two who I’ve read the most and who’s writing has had the most impact on me. Of the two, I like Burroughs’ writing more but find I identify more with Kerouac’s.

The first Kerouac book I read was On The Road . I was in college and I was in Spokane in the early morning waiting for a bus to take me home to Cheney. I read the entire book waiting for that bus, which tells you I was way into it and that the busses In Spokane were few and far between.

Having read Burroughs recently, I thought it would be swell to give Kerouac another go. Desolation Angels was at my fingertips so I tackled it. It’s great! His free form, uninterrupted writing turned me off at first, but his language, the overall style of his writing pulled me in. I found myself enjoying the free form stuff more and more each time I encountered it. I found myself, at 34, identifying with thoughts and feelings Kerouac had at 34 (and writing about years later), identifying with who he was. His description of people, the way he conveys their personality so freely and successfully, is marvelous. And his reactions to things around him, good bad or neutral, seem terribly honest and I found myself identifying with that, as well.

The one thing I don’t get is the sexism. There’s a one dimensional and fairly grim view of women in this and other Kerouac books. It’s sad that a “movement” so wrapped up and even fueled by open mindedness and acceptance of new ideas was still so backwards regarding women.

What I like best is Kerouac’s descriptions of his friends, the way he talks about them. You feel the love in his words, the fascination with their characters and personalities. And you can tell he loved the quirks more than anything, that he loved every weirdness, oddity and eccentricity they had. It’s a pleasure to read Kerouac talking about his friends.

In fact, some of my favorites parts of Desolation Angels were when he was talking about hanging out with Burroughs. I could hear Burroughs’ voice saying the things in this book, hear his peculiar tones and inflections.

And this is probably blasphemy but I kept seeing David Cross as Irwin Garden (Allan Ginsberg).

Really a very, very good read.
Profile Image for Harry Whitewolf.
Author 24 books269 followers
October 7, 2014
Forget On The Road- this is Kerouac at his best. Combining the spiritual philosophies of the Dharma Bums, the road and parties and seeking of On The Road and the desolation and isolation of the human spirit in the abyss of nature of Big Sur. To me, this is Jack's most accessible and balanced writing, not only for the content, but also for his lyrical prose being at its finest. Genius!
Profile Image for Carly.
33 reviews10 followers
May 13, 2021
Jack Kerouac is kind of annoying
Profile Image for Robert Mitchell.
Author 2 books25 followers
May 27, 2013
Desolation Angels is heaven and hell and the world and America and the Void and his Mom. Kerouac/Duluoz is a despicable, noble, earnest, loving, whiny, brilliant, loyal, weak, irreplaceable, insane jazz poet. As a preamble, listen to Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row and realize how he creates surprisingly linear beauty tangentially, and then crank up the random-o-meter one hundred times for Kerouac. One thousand preliminarily random images turn into a masterful Pointillist painting in prose. Bebop improvisation touching on a particular theme from a million different angles placates those of us requiring a story if we are patient. His prose is so poetic at times that it’s exhausting; infinitely compressed like a neutron star. In Desolation Angels he is Dharma Bum, addict, alcoholic, villain, criminal, poet, preacher, seer, mystic and finally Penitente and Bodhisattva having simultaneously reached the gates of Heaven/Nirvana and found himself unforgivable. From Desolation Peak and Seattle to Frisco; to Mexico City and New York; across the Atlantic to Tangiers, Paris and London; from Florida to Berkeley and back again; Desolation Angels is “ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny;” his whole rucksack (lost and found); every work, every poem, every sketch every howl. Ginsberg, Dali, Burroughs are all there, the pantheon of crazy pathetic beat angels.
Profile Image for Sarah Crawford.
23 reviews13 followers
August 28, 2007
I, like many others, found Desolation Angels after reading On The Road.
If you're expecting this to be an off-shoot of On The Road, you'd be wrong.
This book is a journey into the mind of Kerouac. Some call him genius, some madman, but I don't think you can truly define him in any one catagory.
This book is no easy task. It takes a lot of thinking and a lot of patience to get through, but it's well worth the effort in the end.
Profile Image for Andrew.
8 reviews
September 6, 2012
Boy, I really enjoyed this book, even if not a great work of art. For me reading later Kerouac is like a great conversation with a really thoughtful and interesting, if somewhat mixed-up friend. I bought this for .50 at the Friends of Library Booksale, lost it for about two months, and spent many pleasurable hours on my front porch reading the almost 400 pages this spring, summer and fall. I'm feeling kind of melancholy that I'm finished and don't have Jack to visit with anymore. Goodbye Jack. Maybe we'll run into each other again sometime.
Profile Image for tami with an i.
13 reviews1 follower
July 18, 2023
to the person who left this terrible book in the laundromat…count your days…and GET A JOB! zero stars
Profile Image for Alan Scott.
33 reviews16 followers
December 17, 2008

ON THE ROAD...with Mom

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. By the end of the book, and with the return of his compulsive obsession with Christianity, one can really sense the beginning of his psychosis and alcoholism and mommy obsession which would spell his death by age fourty seven.

I'm not sure to whom this book should be recommended- for I'm not sure whom would care about this descent of an icon for joy. It should definetly be read by those whom have read On the Road and the Dharma Bums, but also by those whom think that the counter cultural movements were all done by joy seeking thrill addicts without a care in the world. After reading this book, it would seem that caring is something that was not is short supply amongst these bands of fellow travelers on the way.

Also, those whom felt that the beats were all leftist radicals, anarchists and communists would be very suprised to read in this book that Jack almost seems like a rightist in many regards. He reads a book on the atrocities of communism on the mountain, he constantly is remarking about totalitarian regimes (in particular- Russia), brings up Mao (at a time when some on the left felt he may have been a hero and the crimes against "reactionaries" hadn't yet come into light) and Castro (while others went off to visit Cuba jack said "I'm not concerned with the Cuban Revolution, I'm concerned with the American Revolution.") and even Zapata is discussed in negative diatribes. He was also a fan of Ike. He spends far more time bitching about leftist than he does about rightists. He also has some special scorn put aside for the common hipster, the mass of "beats" whom came after.

Very moving, sad, beautiful, profound, funny, poetic- a treasure from a real man at the start of his turn into a caricature by the mass media. By the end, when he drags his mother to california and he doesn't have hardly a nickel, he truely does seem like a little boy lost, crushed still by the death of his brother Gerard and his father whom he found, crushed by all the love lost, by all the dreams evaporated.

Evey place he goes, he believes that happiness may lie at the next stop- but once he gets there, there is only sadness once again. At first he wants to return to the mountain on which he'd felt so trapped, but by the end of the book, he just wants to return to the womb.
Profile Image for Rob.
140 reviews
May 9, 2016
It was all downhill after the beautiful title save for some sporadic flashes of poignancy... I was leery of picking up this late-career work of Kerouac's, coming at a point when his writing had saturated the market and booze had flooded his talent. My worst fears were confirmed: this is an incoherent mess. He primes us for tedium by shamelessly recycling The Dharma Bums for the first 70 odd pages, then rambles his way through an endless procession of tired, desultory nonsense. It has none of the swagger of his earlier more exuberant prose and the dialogue frequently gets interrupted by half-assed, self-conscious bee bop bullshit... Nowhere near the standard as his pre-1960 work, Desolation Angels is a painful, pretentious bore.
Author 6 books1 follower
February 23, 2015
I tried getting into this but wow, this is horrible and I dont understand why so many give it great reviews.
His style is extremely awkward, and the mini-rants(for lack of better term) are pointless. I could not get past page 5.

Profile Image for Andy C.
84 reviews2 followers
August 21, 2021
Me, 5 pages in:
"OMG what style!! This is gonna be fun, can't wait to read a whole book written like this!!"

Me, one month and 400 pages later:
"I have never so desired death."
Profile Image for Lewis Woolston.
Author 2 books39 followers
May 5, 2023
This is my second attempt at reading Kerouac and i have to admit defeat and accept that he's not for me.
There are moments of brilliance in this book, passages of great beauty and insight but they aren't enough to carry the whole novel. There are large chunks that are nothing more than journal entries and drunken bohemian nonsense.
I'm afraid Kerouac is going on my list of things Baby Boomers consider iconic but which are totally overrated, he can sit on that list alongside Bob Dylan and The Doors and gather dust.
Profile Image for Tien.
4 reviews
September 16, 2020
"And on the way home he always tells the driver to stop at Cine So and So, the nearby movie house, and walks the extra block so no cabby ever knows where he lives. 'When I go across the border nobody can put the finger on me because I put the finger up my ass.'
What a strange vision, an old man walking across the border with his finger up his behind?" [p. 232]
Profile Image for Kate Buck.
32 reviews80 followers
October 17, 2009
I don't know if I'm outgrowing Kerouac, but I definitely got that feeling when I started this book. There's something lacking in exurberance, like Kerouac's winding down.
Solitude Vs Wildness atop Mt Desolation Kerouac enjoys the peace & solitude but as soon as he's back into the fold of Cassady-Cody, Ginsberg-Irwin, Corso-Raphael, Orlovsky-Simon & Burroughs-Bull; he's soon back to his old hoboing, drunken, womanizing ways (which like his other books makes for some exicitng writing) but behind it all Memere's premonition 'They'll destroy you...' is painfully apparent.
Kerouac's Christ/Buddha is no match for this kind of life any more and is slowly disintergrating along his non-stop hipster travails, which take him to Mexico, Tangiers, Paris & London, becoming increasingly bored & disillusioned when confronted with the increasing notority of the 'beat generation' becoming known to all American high school kids, making it the latest fad instead of a free way of life.
Also the guy had a serious complex about women: 'Women scheme for men's babies'!!!??. His woman-hatred stemming from his obsessive relationship; revealed in his numerous lover relationships as a terrified little boy & some twisted garden of Eve shit where all women are evil and gonna eat you, leading to the Freudian theory that he was in fact gay. He even suggests at one point that all he wants to do is crawl back into his mother's womb!
It's a big sticking point but it's my only criticism; this book is no different form his other amazing works,& is argurably refreshing in an over PC society but it does suffer from dating: 'Negro'. The only cringe worthy aspect of Kerouac is his ignorance over race, suggesting all poor black people are jolly happy folk.
The only problem with Beat-Lit is the fact that the men are so weak & stupid; their attitude to women is simply degrading: 'I just wanted them to spread their legs.' e.g. if she sleeps with you she's cool, if she's not interested she's a dike or 'square'.
This blatant sexism & ignorant racism i find bizarre along side their relaxed attitude to homosexuality, and really works out that men can do whatever they want.
But this is only part of Beat, and doesn't detract from his amazing stream-of-conciousness writing style, rushing by as fast as the road, carrying us with it.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Dane Cobain.
Author 28 books309 followers
July 26, 2013
Desolation Angels contains everything that you've come to expect from Kerouac, from the stream-of-consciousness jazz-like rhythm of his beatnik writing to the way that he chronicles the lives of himself and his friends in 1950s America.

The book begins with a pensive Kerouac atop a mountain, Jack's record of a long, lonely summer spent fire-watching. After this period of desolation, he returns to the bright lights of the big cities to meet up with his friends, many of whom were high-profile literary figures even at the time.

Expect to see plenty of familiar faces disguised behind new names, like Allen Ginsberg as Irwin Garden, William Burroughs as Bull Hubbard, Neal Cassady as Cody Pomeray, Gregory Corso as Raphael Urso, Peter Orlovski as Simon Darlovsky and Gary Snyder as Jarry Wagner. William Carlos Williams even makes an appearance as 'Dr. Williams'.

Kerouac's style can be difficult to concentrate on for a long period of time, but it was just right for me to read on the bus on my daily commute. The book is split in to two sections, and these two sections are split further in to dozens of short chapters. Actually, this approach compliments Kerouac's storytelling well, as the pauses help to make the novel feel more like a conversation.

As with most of Kerouac's writing, this was difficult to categorise - in the end, I had to plump for both 'fiction' and 'non-fiction'. While his books are, essentially, non-fiction, occasional additions and the changing of the names is enough to qualify the work as semi-autobiographical. Frequent readers will notice that the aliases that he uses sometimes change from novel to novel - Cody Pomeray, for example, was Dean Moriarty in On the Road. Apparently, this is because of the objections of some of his publishers.

While Desolation Angels starts off slowly, it helps to convey the sense of loneliness and isolation that Kerouac was feeling while he whiled away the days on top of a mountainside. Just keep on reading - he soon comes down, and the introspective version of Kerouac that we see at the start of the novel quickly readjusts himself to life amongst his old friends. Let the drunken shenanigans commence.

Oh, and keep an eye out for Simon Darlovsky - he'll probably try to penetrate you.
Profile Image for Ryan (Glay).
108 reviews32 followers
September 14, 2021
Like 'the Road' but a more tired kind of version taking place in your mid-30s where the drink and drugs are starting to catch up with you. Liked the contrasting figures of Old Bull (William Burroughs) the morphine junkie in Mexico City and the trying-to-stay-clean Hipster-Hating vigorous walker of Tangiers Souks and alleys.

One of those books Im pleased I continued to read though I didn't enjoy the begining... the jazzy run-on stream of consciousness turned into more of just an interesting travel narrative about a quarter way through the book.

I actually liked how Kerouac brings his beloved Mother on his Greyhound Bus travels with him near the end of the book and there is a nice little scene where the deeply religious Mother and him watch Penitents in a church in Juarez Mexico.
Profile Image for Allan MacDonell.
Author 14 books43 followers
August 9, 2013
The thing to admire about Jack Kerouac is that he was smart enough to disguise the fact that he was an idiot, in his books at least, and he didn’t do that. This is not to deny that his writings are streaked through with layers of pretentious dispensations lathered upon his fictional self and his thinly disguised friends and literary contemporaries. Starting with its title, Desolation Angels is veined with bold assertions of eternal sacred significance for Kerouac’s book-famous crew of basic fuckups. At this point in the Duluoz franchise, even Kerouac’s alter ego experiences his semi-fictional cohort of visionary archetypes as tiresome Peter Pan mooches who need to grow up, like he has. And right there is where Kerouac exhibits true grace: He is resolute in his refusal to hide the churlish, fratty adolescent who inhabits his autobiographical narrator’s shell of maturity. If God, as the proofreaders are fond of asserting, does reside in the details, then Kerouac’s precise, unflinching depictions of the failings and flaws of companions and self are evidence that some divine spirit is alive in every one of us who has ever despaired of being afflicted by or at one with humanity.
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