The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac | Book Review

This book review is broken down into two parts. One that I wrote just after reading a couple of pages and the other one after a couple of weeks of completing it.


Part 1:

19th August, 2014

I am a gullible man. Strong personalities, events and emotions influence me easily. Thus, I like to read good books.  They push me to take action and make me feel empowered to do things that aren't ordinary. They inspire me to lead a life full of experiences that could be worthy of, one day, becoming folklore. But, time and again, I find myself in a situation that as soon as the memory of the inspiration fades away, I lose my interest and that desire to take action hides away into the deep recesses of my mind. 

But, there are a few exceptional times when the combination of the inspiration and personal drive brings something to execution. Today, I received my copy of The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac. The back cover speaks of lines such as these: "descriptive excitement", "poetry jam sessions", "marathon drinking bouts". And never have I felt such a violent surge of energy inside me to go explore the world and do something crazy. I am not sure how much of it would I be able to do but it has made me sit down and write these few lines at the least. 

On reading these lines, one feels compelled to follow their heroes and tread the path guided by their inspiration. But, then you hit a roadblock. You realise that you can't do it since you are bound by the rules and regulations of a society where you exchange your time and freedom for a sense of security. And what's worse is that it is you who has chosen to do this by complying to it. We have full control to make it right. Instead, we, like many others, are held back by fear, uncertainty and responsibilities.

But, no more. Don't let the moments of your inspiration waste away. Act. 

Soon after writing till the above point, I started sharing this with my girlfriend and check a bit of email and social media. And all of it was so energy sapping and flow interrupting. To get actual work done, we must stop thinking about how we would like to share it with others. Do for yourself and do it well. As a writer, write something which you yourself enjoy reading. And stay focused, don't get lost in the endless stream of noises coming from different sources. The trade off between a moment of cheap entertainment or the need to feel acknowledged and involved versus the loss of yet another precious moment of your life is just not worth enough to make. Our fear of missing out with the world renders us vulnerable to missing out on the most important thing - our own lives. 


Part 2

19th October, 2014

I have a silly problem of forgetting the characters and incidents from the books I read. What stays with me is the feeling that book has evoked. And Dharma Bums, even after 2 weeks of finishing the book, has left in me a certain energy to really be alive. The sensation of having read and experienced - or I would go so far as to say, having lived the characters, lingers on in me. Such, is the power of this book.  

While discussing this with a few friends, who themselves are wanderers and explorers to say the least, we ran into the practicality and the reality of the stories in the books. They said that a lot of the events and stories in the books are exagerrations and fantasies of a restless, creative mind. This, I think, could very well be the case. But, I argued, it doesn't mean that we cannot shape our lives that way. Someone else's fantasises could very well be our reality - if only we want to work towards shaping it that way. 

The simple fact that I started writing down about this book even before finishing it betrays the power of this book. Jack Kerouac is a master at channeling your internal energy towards real action. Even though it is less popular than the more ubiquitous and oft quoted (including on this site) On The Road, I find it more empowering and a deeper joy to read. Both books talk about the beat generation but I would like to live like a Dharma Bum rather than be On The Road.