I bought The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac in City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco in 2008, along with a postcard of Jack and Neil Cassidy that I planned to use as a bookmark when I started the book on the flight home.
It is almost four years later. That book came with me from San Francisco to Buffalo to two homes in California, an apartment in Dublin and four apartments in Idaho, and I hadn’t opened it until last week.
Books like this haunt me–books that I meant to read, I still intend to read, but which never seem make it from the To-Read shelf to the main bookshelf area where all the cool books hang out. Few of them last on that shelf as long as The Dharma Bums did, but they are there nonetheless. They sit there, haunting me, contributing to my bad book karma.
There are only two ways to get rid of bad book karma from an unread book: get rid of the book or read it. And when I was faced with that choice last week while packing up my shelves to head to my fifth Idaho apartment, I chose the latter when it came to Kerouac.
I’ve tried Kerouac before, I promise. I read On the Road like every teenager did, and found certain sentences so profoundly beautiful that they stuck in my mind for years. Unfortunately, those sentences are so buried in lines like “The hog dogs were too thin because they ran out of Mexicans so I went round to the old rose bush out back and slept until the truth of the emptiness and awakeness of the world came to me in a flash of holy white pure snow behind my eyes.”
The dude’s whacked, for lack of a better turn of phrase.
But I pressed on with the Dharma. I kind of hate it, but I know there are people out there that love the beat poets, even though they are not my thing. At least, when I go to pack up my to-read pile next week, there will be one fewer book in it this time.
Do you suffer from book hauntings? What books? Maybe we should do a book-haunting swap! :D
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