This book makes a great sequel to the dharma bums, even though it was actually written first. It starts with Kerouac's incredible isolation at the top of the Mountain and slowly sees him re-emerging into his crazy life, but never being able to get over the feeling of isolation and depression that he felt on the mountain top.
My favorite part of this was when he was slowly returning to the world. I think this was partly because I was familiar with the places he was visiting. It was amusing to hear Everett described as Hell! (which it is). And then my favourite line of the whole book describing bars in Seattle, "My God they ben drinkin! Every one is a lush, I can see it - Seattle!" Then he went to a burlesque show in Seattle. 50 years earlier it's good to see that so little has changed. I could imagine him wandering into foxes if he'd been there in the 90s instead of the 50s.
After so much isolation, the madness of San Francisco seemed rather off putting. Kerouac didn't seem to have the same love for the fun and the same drive that he did earlier. It was interesting to have read Carolyn Cassady's biography first and put this in context with them. I think part of the problem I had was that I didn't like one of his friends very much, he just seemed to spend his entire time fantasising about being rich.
The 2nd half of the novel looses the Buddhist overtones of the first half. (It was written about 5 years later). It talks about trips discussed elsewhere (for instance in Lonesome Traveller), and his relationship with Joyce. I think the ending is one of the saddest things I've read. His roadtrip across the country with his mother to begin a new life in California which both of them end up hating. It was very personal and very sad. Even the publication of his novel didn't seem to change the utter defeat that is in these last few chapters.
Definitely recommended, a lovely sad tale....Continua