SOME OF THE DHARMA by Jack Kerouac

SOME OF THE DHARMA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

More ersatz Buddhism from postwar America's most overrated author. "Dharma" is a Buddhist term meaning, roughly, "law." Some of the Dharma purports to be a journal of meditations on that subject, but Kerouac is unable to keep his mind on track, resulting in a work that's ultimately chaotic. His technique seems sound enough: He takes a classic Buddhist philosophical statement and then decodes it for his own use. Unfortunately, his interpretations are usually far from the point, as Kerouac is unable to separate Hinduism, Taoism, and even Catholicism from Buddhism, with repeated incorrect assessments of how the Tao affects Buddhahood (it does not) or how Jesus was a Buddha-like figure (by most accounts he was not). Furthermore, Kerouac, by his own admission, is unable to stay sober long enough to attain any real enlightenment. He sets forth the goals of not drinking, meditating regularly, and abstaining from sex, but he makes lame excuses for his falling off the wagon, and his rationalizations for avoiding sex devolve into plain misogyny, such as his statement "PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES F*** you all," or his observation that jazz cannot possibly be a high art form if women can perform it. Kerouac's various conceits, e.g., that he is a greater writer than Joyce (whose term for verse--pome--he steals) or Burroughs (whose "cut-up" technique it appears Kerouac is trying to approximate), are downright absurd. Comparing himself as an artist to Mozart on the one hand, while unable to get his manuscripts published (a continual obsession in the journals) on the other, often renders Kerouac laughable. If the reader is left wondering what all this has to do with Buddhism, the answer is, very little. If you're searching for real Buddhism, pick up Suzuki; if you must indulge your guilty pleasures with more Kerouac, reread On the Road.
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-670-84877-8
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1997




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