The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac, The Viking Press, 1958, 244 pp
(Sorry, no image today. Blogger won't cooperate.)
I first read The Dharma Bums in about 1969. It was our instructional manual on "how to be a hippie." The long, late-night drug and alcohol fueled parties, the disdain for money and suburbia and middle class life, the simple foods and hanging out on the floor. Hiking in the woods, free love, earth mothers and footloose uncommitted men.
As soon as my first husband and I reached San Francisco after driving and camping our way across America from Michigan, we climbed up to Mount Tamalpais and got high with all the hippies and their naked children in a mountain meadow. The only thing we didn't do is ride the rails, but we did sometimes hitchhike and we always picked up hitchhikers.
All these scenarios and more fill the pages of The Dharma Bums in Jack Kerouac's breathless prose. He is searching through Buddihism, poetry, and friendship for a life that makes sense. Kerouac's life was brief. At that breakneck pace and that level of alcohol use, he was bound to burn out young.
But along with a very few others, right smack in the middle of the 20th century, he created a sensibility which has infected spiritual seekers, writers, musicians and artists right up to the present. Not a man to marry, not a man to depend on in any way, Jack Kerouac had another mission on this earth and I thank him to this day for capturing both the incipient sadness and the rarely achieved joy of life.
(The Dharma Bums is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)