Review: Desolations Angels by Jack Kerouac

Triumph of the Now


I found myself, as I neared the end of this, oddly, unexpectedly, moved. This novel charts Kerouac’s last year or so before becoming the hugely renowned and recognisable writer he was for the last decade or so of his life. He is 34, about to “hit the big time”, and conscious of his friends becoming successful too.

It’s a very egocentric text. Obviously, as thinly veiled autobiography, it is about the self, is intrinsically self-interested. The opening hundred pages or so are Kerouac alone, as a fire warden, at the top of a mountain, Desolation Peak. He is seeking a spiritual awakening, a vision created through solitude, an epiphany rooted solely in the self. His revelation instead, really, turns out to be an acknowledgement of his wish for, his love of, life. So, his tenure up, he leaves the mountain and proceeds to travel south down the West Coast of…

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