With the publication of On the Road in 1957, Jack Kerouac became at once the spokesman and hero of the Beat Generation. Along with such visionaries as William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac changed the face of American literature, igniting a counterculture revolution that even now, decades later, burns brighter than ever in Desolation Angels.
Kerouac … defines the sensibilities of members of his own subgeneration: we knew them as wearing such guises as the Beat Generation, the Subterraneans, the Dharma Bums; now we see them as Desolation Angels, sadly pursuing their empty futilities…
The classic novel from the definitive voice of the Beat Generation, Desolation Angels is the story of Kerouac’s life just before the publication of On the Road—as told through his fictional self—Jack Duluoz. As he hitches, walks, and talks his way across the world, Duluoz perceives the angel that is in everything. It is life as he sees it.
Desolation Angels is the spiritual successor to The Dharma Bums, beginning where the latter ends—alone atop Desolation Peak in Washington’s Cascade range. Here Kerouac continues his meditation practice, and his turbulent introspection reveals both important truths and startling revelations. In the second part of the book, ‘Passing Through,’ Kerouac returns to San Francisco and boisterous drunken nights among the Beat Generation, and then it’s off to Mexico, New York, and the world. Desolation Angels is Kerouac at the crossroads, torn between the desire for peaceful solitude and the allure of the mad world.
Kerouac was a breath of fresh air when he came on the literary scene. He was also a force, a tragedy, a triumph, and an ongoing influence, and that influence is still with us.
Each book by Kerouac is unique, a telepathic discord. Such rich natural writing is nonpareil in later 20th century, a synthesis of Proust, Celine, Thomas Wolfe, Hemingway, Genet, Thelonius Monk, Basho, Charlie Parker and Kerouac’s own athletic sacred insight. Jack Kerouac was a ‘writer’ as his great peer William S. Burroughs says.