The Dharma Bums – Jack Kerouac

Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

There is a legitimate fear in me that I no longer have the brain power to keep doing this. Or perhaps intelligence is not the actual problem. It’s patience. I’m not young anymore, and while I don’t actually know how much of my life has passed me by, statistically speaking I am roughly at half. By most people’s reporting, the better half is gone. This gives me a few rights, but most noticeably the right to say ‘shut up, shut up, I don’t care’. This is exactly what I say (or want to say) pretty much every time someone brings up their religion.

I no longer care about anyone’s religion. In any way shape or form. This made The Dharma Bums particularly hard to read. The Dharma Bums is a novel by Jack Kerouac where a thinly veiled representation of the author himself has hippie adventures throughout America. But it didn’t focus on anything that might have made this interesting. The main character does hippy acts in defiance of all things American, and practices wishy washy Buddhism.

That’s not me being mean about anything, that’s about as generous as I can be about this novel.

Half way through the book I was desperately hoping that this would actually be an attack on this American Orientalism and adoption of barely understood eastern mysticism. I think that interpretation of this novel certainly exists. The fact that the main character is a do-nothing lay about that uses Buddhism as a justification seems a little to on the nose, particularly after the main characters own family mocks his beliefs. The most choice of these is when he is mocked by his own young nieces and nephews, who see right through the shallowness of his beliefs. But even writing this I feel like the kind of person who tunes in to get his news from ‘Rush’. That isn’t me.

Alright, trying not to be mean I can say that I genuinely enjoy Kerouac’s style. He describes things well, and I do fell pretty there with him. He would be a very enjoyable read, if he were not such a victim of his times. I don’t care about your hippie lifestyle, and I don’t care about your religious navel gazing. I don’t think anyone gets anything from hearing people talk uncritically about how they are one with everything.

As I was reading this I was really desperate for something to happen. I was awaiting a foil, someone else for us to compare these characters to so that we can see what the cost of this lifestyle is. But no, that never came about.

It’s been ages since I read On the Road. I barely remember it, and it is indeed slated for a reread. But I am not expecting big things.


I read this novel out of obligation for my job. You are going to get a lot of these in the coming months, so be warned. Reading by obligation is not anyone’s idea of fun, so that may affect the quality of these posts.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

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