Monday, May 28, 2018

Curation #51 from my Kerouac bookshelf: Some of the Dharma by Jack Kerouac

Item #51 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this Penguin Books softcover edition of Some of the Dharma by Jack Kerouac. This copy shows it's a first printing of a 1999 edition, but I sort of doubt that. It's in good condition, and the provenance is that I bought it used from Amazon in January 2012 (click here for evidence and a suggestion by Kerouacian John Dorfner). This is a virtual tome, 420 pages and over 8" x 10".

I lovingly refer to this book as a Buddhism coffee table book. It's not a straight-through read (I guess it could be for certain readers), but rather the kind of book that you pick up and start reading anywhere and go until your brain is ready to explode from the input. Jack started writing this book in December 1953 during a concentrated study of Buddhism and finished it in 1956. He sometimes referred to it as Book of Dharmas.

Some of the Dharma was in the Kerouac archive until 1991 when estate executor John Sampas sent it to Viking Penguin via Sterling Lord. It was a meticulously typed manuscript with a few handwritten annotations (you can see them in this book). Viking Penguin published it in 1997.

Some of the Dharma is divided into 10 "books." To me, it reads like Kerouac's attempt at putting everything he knew about Buddhism in one place, and it varies from literal Buddhist doctrine to Jack's interpretations of same to relevant quotations (sometimes attributed, sometimes not) to resources (p. 8 has a Buddhist bibliography) to Bible passages to mentions of Jack's other works (Doctor Sax, p. 253) to poems to journal-like entries to practical advice to . . . well, you get the idea. It's a spiritual cornucopia.

In Some of the Dharma you'll find doctrinal passages such as the Four Noble Truths:
1. All Life is Sorrowful
2. The Cause of Suffering is Ignorant Craving
3. The Suppression of Suffering can be Achieved
4. The Way is the Noble Eightfold Path

You'll find reflective gems like this:
I don't want to be a drunken hero of the generation suffering everywhere
     with everyone --
I want to be a quiet saint living in a shack in solitary meditation
     of universal mind--- (p. 63)

You'll find quotes from Neal Cassady.

     "Well, boy, let's get 2 behind 3 off 1, then double to 4 to set out the east cars, spot the express reefer, pull 5 and kick 7 down the lead, then it'll be a trey, deuce, four, another deuce, five aces, and a trey, hang the head car and come to 15 to shove that rail, then get the cummy off the limey and we'll cross over to tie up 8." (p 139)

You'll find random aphorisms.

--UNFOCUS EYES ALL TIME, like bemused reader over a page--- (p. 313)

I could go on and on with examples. There are a few more in my post from December 2016 (click here).

Suffice to say it's brilliant stuff delivered Kerouac-style, and whether or not you are into Buddhism, it deserves a place on your coffee table.

Below is a picture of Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (1st on the left) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: The Scripture of the Golden Eternity by Jack Kerouac.

Shelf #2 of my Kerouac bookshelf

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