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The Dharma Bums: 09/24/07

The Dharma Bums

The Dharma Bums was published the year after On the Road and like its predecessor is a semi-autobiographical novel. Where On the Road focuses on the city scene and the wild parties Beat Generation, Dharma Bums goes out to the countryside in search of peace, tranquility and enlightenment.

The Dharma Bums has all the charm, irreverence and wackiness of On the Road. It has train hopping, Chinese poetry in Berkeley, Buddhism in the Sierras, enlightenment in the snow and self imposed isolation in the Cascades. Over the course of these adventures, Ray Smith (the stand-in for Kerouac) grows as a character, finding peace in the simple quiet moments of life, preferring to sleep in a gully or live in a shack than partying in the big noisy cities he has fled from.

Except for the long and drawn out going away party for Japhy Ryder (inspired by poet Gary Snyder), I loved the book. The last fifty pages or so drag a bit, as if Kerouac was reluctant to reach the natural end of his story.

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