I find Kerouac to be equal parts exhilarating and repellent at once. In terms of his personal behavior, his utterly counter-intuitive treatment of his daughter, and his insistence on being appreciated in what was essentially a vaccuum with no regard for the changing times or his role in it, I find him thoroughly excruciating to behold. I find it extremely strange that a man as intellegent as Jack would demand that he be valued exclusively for his WORK and not his personality when his WORK was, for better or worse, the epitome of self-centeredness.
What becomes apparent in any cursory examination of the man's life is the profound loss of JOY that he endured in his last decade or so. Perhaps, as somebody said about somebody else, he felt life too intensely to bear living it. perhaps he was exhausted both psychologically and physically. who knows? the fact is that his body of work must be treated in THREE very distinct phases: The first was quite lovely. Yes, a Wolfean ripoff but a damn joy to read, anybody that has come of age in a small town can appreciate the sentimentality that ooozes from Town and the City. The second was his Golden Age...the novels and novellas that evoke thought, exasperation, envy, and love on every page. The third stage was simply pathetic. Drunken ramblings that even the most ardent Kerouac apologists would have to admit was nonseqitious pablum.
Desolation Angels is a complete enigma to me and represents a baffling transition from the secong stage to the third. It s the UNEVEN quality of his presentation that makes the book maddening hard to read cover to cover. When one mentions Cassady's personality disorder, I often marvel that nobody points to Desolation as a clear indication of Kerouac's schizophrenia. There is the Buddhist jack versus Catholic Jean-Louis....man of the world vs. interminable mama's boy (a frightening attachment if ever there was one)....white picket fence Jean-Louis versus deadbeat father....runaway mytic versus street kicks Jackie....racist homophobe vs. latent homosexual...ITS LIKE WATCHING A TRAIN WRECK!