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Dr Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets

The Dharma Bums

The Dharma Bums - Jack Kerouac, Ann  Douglas Kerouac really doesn't care about plot as much as discussing various ideas with a mediocre amount of depth. In many ways, this is the story of Japhy more than Ray, but the focus on Ray's various moments of "enlightenment" and no real character arcs for either man left me yearning for something to happen. The initial mountain climbing sequence is done well, to the point that I felt Ray's sadness at giving up and joy at realizing the point of the trek. But after that moment, the rest of the "novel" meanders, celebrating the details of hitchhiking and parties and Buddhism, but without any thread. By the end, I realized I liked Ray, but nothing had happened worth discussing.

Most frustrating, Kerouac kills any moment of tension that comes up. His "argument" with Japhy is defused immediately. His visit home lacks any clear elucidation of his relationship to the suburban clan. Ray feels sorry for middle class people, but never really acknowledges why, other then that they, too, suffer.