Desolation Angels is a book I’ve heard plenty about … I bought my copy in a book store in Penn Station (I think it’s called Penn Books, I’ve purchased many train-ride’s worth of novels in that establishment). Angels is supposedly one of Kerouac’s best books, but as someone who loves Kerouac, I’ve had a rather hard time getting into it. Part of the Beat Mystique is that something happened in the mid-20th century, something that changed American culture and literature for-ev-er. If only we could have been there at that momentous, stupendous, earth-ratting, cosmos-vibrating, yab-yumming time to .. spend a few days … alone … with Kerouac … on a mountain.
Yeah, that’s why I always put Angels down. It opens with Kerouac alone on a mountain. I’m sure other wonderful things happen while he faces up to his own personal void, but Big Sur had him getting drunk in San Francisco in the first scene, and, say what you want, On the Road goes somewhere, naturally … Dean shows up, he leaves, things happen. And then there’s Angels. Kerouac. Alone. On a mountain. I know Kerouac’s a great writer but he’s still just some guy from Massachusetts.
Today, I dug through a pile of other books, and there was Mr. Solitude looking back at me from half a century ago. I decided to give Angels another spin. Maybe I’ll finish it.