By way of providing a balance to Kirkus' rather grouchy review of Kerouac's "Book of the Dharma":
Kerouac's being unable definitively to seperate Buddhism from Hinduism and Taoism is hardly his fault. Early Hinduism is the religion which lies behind Buddhism, and all Vedic faiths. Tibetan Buddhism adopted and adapted Mongol imagery and concepts, and Sino-Japanese Buddhism is infused with Taoism and Confucianism. As for its connection with Catholicism, this is the religion Kerouac was brought up in, and which he struggled to reconcile with Buddhism for many years. It left him, perhaps with an overexaggerated sense of the first Noble Truth: "All life is suffering". The Buddhist text that Kerouac first encountered, Dwight Goddard's "A Buddhist Bible," is an eclectic collection of scripture drawn from all of these Buddhist traditions.
Christ claimed a path to redemption from suffering - so did Buddha - room for comparison at least?
Attacking Kerouac for his alcoholism is rather below the belt - can't a drunk be religious? Can he not aspire above his own weakness? Anxious and neurotic this text may be, even interminably confused, but then so is John Bunyan's "Confessions": at least it's vexedness indicates Kerouac's engagement with serious metaphysical questions.
Even so, one for die hard fans, I should imagine. B.Moderate.
Some of the Dharma, a maze of journal entries, prayers, thoughts, meditations set in a typeset facsimile of the original manuscript by the author is so vast and informed, it is hard to key in on the text with just a perusory glance in time for the hasty review written anonymously by Kirkus.What it does is reveal Kerouac for the wandering soul he truly was. He was set apart from the writers of his time (other than his fellow Beat writers),so that his Buddhist texts were rejected in 1950's America.They are every bit as profound, mystical, and holy as those who practice Buddhism on a lifetime basis. Kerouac was an experimenter in his prose, his life, and his faith. That all religions tie into one Universal belief succintly displays Kerouac's objective in this book. It develops Kerouac's vast grasp of intellect in ways that On the Road doesn't. That is the true heart and gem of this book