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The Dharma Bums | [Jack Kerouac]

The Dharma Bums

Two ebullient young men are engaged in a passionate search for dharma, or truth. Their major adventure is the pursuit of the Zen way, which takes them climbing into the high Sierras to seek the lesson of solitude - a lesson that has a hard time surviving their forays into the pagan groves of San Francisco's bohemia, with its marathon wine-drinking bouts, poetry jam sessions, experiments in "yabyum", and other non-ascetic pastimes.
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Publisher's Summary

Two ebullient young men are engaged in a passionate search for dharma, or truth. Their major adventure is the pursuit of the Zen way, which takes them climbing into the high Sierras to seek the lesson of solitude - a lesson that has a hard time surviving their forays into the pagan groves of San Francisco's bohemia, with its marathon wine-drinking bouts, poetry jam sessions, experiments in "yabyum", and other non-ascetic pastimes.

This autobiographical novel appeared just a year after the author's explosive On the Road put the Beat generation on the literary map and Kerouac on the best-seller lists. The same expansiveness, humor, and contagious zest for life that sparked the earlier novel ignites this one.

©1986 Jan Kerouac and Stella Kerouac; (P)2004 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"A vivid evocation of a part of our time." (New York Post)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (333 )
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4.0 (264 )
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  •  
    E. W. Sawyer Connecticut 11-01-14
    E. W. Sawyer Connecticut 11-01-14 Member Since 2015

    Book Lover

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I can check the box on this American writer"

    Ray meditates in the woods. Ray goes on a road trip. Ray sleeps in the train yard. Ray goes on a hike with his buddies. They talk a lot of pseudo eastern philosophy bull. They go back to a shack. Everyone gets drunk. Everyone gets laid. By the same Barbie nympho doll. Ray goes on a road trip. Ray sleeps in a train yard. Ray goes home and Momma cooks for him. Ray meditates in the woods. Ray goes on a road trip. Ray meets up with buddies. They talk a lot of pseudo eastern philosophy bull. They throw a party and get drunk. Several women show up and wish they could have sex with Ray's friend. Ray goes on a road trip. Then Ray climbs a mountain. More pseudo eastern philosophical BS. The end.

    I get that this was very influential in 1958. That millions of young men thought this footloose lifestyle was some kind of statement about individualism and freedom. But boy, it just reads like BS today. And if you've read On the Road already, this is a pale duplicate only with eastern BS thrown in to try and make it mean something. Which it doesn't. It doesn't mean anything except Kerouac didn't like women or working.

    Kerouac was a great writer. I wish he'd been a better man and given us better material. I am totally done with him now.

    The narrator was great.

    95 of 100 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Parola138 United States 11-04-11
    Parola138 United States 11-04-11 Listener Since 2005

    We bite

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not my thing, but you might like it"

    Sorry, but I struggled to get into this. I liked 'On the Road,' a lot, and this pretty much 'On The Road,' but with a Buddhist theme. You get a bunch of people talking about esoteric Buddist things that your average western would not know/care about. I think there are better Kerouak books out there unless you are already into Buddhism and understand some of this ahead of time. Narration was fine though.

    23 of 28 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Melissa Chappaqua, NY, United States 03-26-12
    Melissa Chappaqua, NY, United States 03-26-12
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    "kind of dated"

    got my attention - but dated - surprisingly sexist - but I suspect pretty accurate for its day

    19 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John Mendoza 05-23-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Buddhism, Hiking, and Wine drinking.."

    Buddhism, Hiking, and Wine drinking.. Topics I'm all too familiar with-- but in the reverse order. Did I learn anything new? Probably not. Did it answer any of those "life questions?" Nah, not any of mine at least, probably because I wasn't having an existential crisis to begin with. Were the tales told entertaining? I wouldn't go that far to describe it as such. At best, I was amused at some parts.

    Although a bit dated, somewhat misogynistic, and rambly, I still found myself amused by the misadventures and tales entwined in a very "westernized" view of Buddhism. However, I think it's those very same qualities that give the book its charm.

    "Ah Japhy you taught me the final lesson of them all, you can't fall off a mountain.”

    But you can throw a book off one!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Bloggs WASHINGTON, IL, United States 07-13-13
    Joe Bloggs WASHINGTON, IL, United States 07-13-13 Member Since 2011

    Simple Joe

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Goes Nowhere and Does Nothing"
    What disappointed you about The Dharma Bums?

    I thought maybe there was something of substance to this book, but there was nothing of substance there.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Jack Kerouac again?

    I don't think so. The idea that he was some sort of guru or something is a sad notion that not even die hard aging hippies are likely to believe. He's just a guy who did some drugs and learned a little about an Eastern religion.


    What does Tom Parker bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    I'm not sure really. I suppose he did a decent job, but nothing jumps off the table and says "This is something special"


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Just disappointment at wasting my time. It happens now and then, you pick a book off the "Must read before I die" list and find out it really actually sucks.


    Any additional comments?

    I can't imagine why this book shows up in certain "Must Read" lists. Obviously nobody who puts these lists together has actually suffered through this dull book.

    28 of 42 people found this review helpful
  •  
    HankieG Pleasant Hill, CA USA 07-18-13
    HankieG Pleasant Hill, CA USA 07-18-13 Member Since 2015
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    "No Slouch This Dharma Bum"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    A reminder of the excellent detail interwoven with contemplation by the Great Rememberer. Great to hear this having first read the follow up much earlier, Desolation Angels.


    What other book might you compare The Dharma Bums to and why?

    Desolation Angels apparently is sequentially after Dharma Bums, and the Zen themes run through out both.


    8 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jes Hobart, IN, United States 01-15-15
    Jes Hobart, IN, United States 01-15-15 Member Since 2011
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    "The spoke Dharma is not the true Dharma"

    This is a great story from the 1950’s when you could hitchhike all across the country and sleep out in public spaces. Now there are no public spaces you can do that in legally because most are ‘privately owned’. With that aside I do like the story where you have three different views on what the Dharma is and how different people see it. I would liked to have read at the end an epilogue of where everyone was ten years from when the story ended. After reading it I can see that like the Tao, you can’t speak the Tao and have it be the true Tao the Dharma is the same as in it has a different meaning to everyone that practices it.

    Oh, and I do like the part where the woman talks about the ‘police’ watching everything you do just because they can and 50 years after this book was published congress gave the ‘police’ just that authority.

    9 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Sooke BC Canada 04-17-12
    James Sooke BC Canada 04-17-12

    I love trees!

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    "loved It!!!"
    What did you love best about The Dharma Bums?

    every thing!! the story, narrator and most of all.... the characters!! This book spoke to me mostly I think because there are a lot of parallels with my own life.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Dharma Bums?

    when ray comes to stay at Sean Monahan's


    Which character – as performed by Tom Parker – was your favorite?

    Loved Japhy Ryder!!


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No I took my time and listen to it over a week or so. then I listened a couple more times. theres a lot being said.


    Any additional comments?

    any body who loves the outdoors,nature, free spirt lifestyle, buddhism will dig this book!

    7 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    timothy 06-01-15
    timothy 06-01-15 Member Since 2014
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    "A Tale of Love and Gratitude"

    Wow! A love story for Gary Snyder by the father of Beats. Kerouac is still burning bright in the skies of our imaginations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Timothy 05-28-15
    Timothy 05-28-15 Member Since 2015

    Musician and runner living on the island of Jeju in South Korea.

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    "Rucksack Revolution"

    It's been almost a decade since I first picked up the Dharma Bums and this was the perfect format for revisiting one of Kerouac's finest novels. Tom Parker brings the story to life with the delivery of a stern newspaperman and manages to convey the novel's steady and sparkling excitement and the book stands up as one of Kerouac's best. From Matterhorn to Mexico to North Carolina, The Dharma Bums is one of the best travel books of all time. Kerouac could capture the spark of the open road like no other.

    The friendship between Japhy Ryder (based on poet Gary Snyder) and narrator Ray Smith is the central storyline. Kerouac explores the admiration, lunacy, and love of friendship with a refreshing lack of hangups. He attaches himself to Ryder and serves as his scribe through mountainous adventures and all-night parties.

    Along with Ryder comes the introduction of Eastern religions. The conversations about buddhism and mysticism aren't over-intellectualized and therefore sometimes dip into an a humorous innocence. From hobos to hippies, Kerouac manages to cram a lot of viewpoints into a few short pages.

    One glaring absence from the novel are strong female characters. Kerouac's tendency to focus more on the men in his life speaks to the era, but also is neglectful for somebody who is taking in so many other details.

    Kerouac is surprisingly open about his autobiographical details and this is a novel that strongly hints at his slip into the alcoholism that eventually killed him. The novel is full of Kerouac's stubborn brush-offs of friends saying he drinks too much, and for all of its lofty spirituality the narrator Ray Smith does seem overly focused on hooch. It's a sad aspect to a character with so much life enthusiasm.

    The Dharma Bums is naive on many levels, but is saved by its sincerity. Kerouac doesn't seem interested in filtering many details, but still manages to move the story forward with the contained crazy form of a jazz song. The novel doesn't claim to make any major existential revelations but instead takes readers along for a ride in Kerouac's boxcar for an enjoyable 7 hours. This book will make you want to strap on your rucksack and hop the next midnight train to anywhere.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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