‘THE DHARMA BUMS’ CONSIDERED A CLASSIC OF BEAT GENERATION LITERATURE
The Beat Generation sprang from the late 1940s, an underground, anti-conformist youth movement with aspects that morphed into the counterculture of the 1960s.
Few writers represent the Beat Generation more than Jack Kerouac (1922-1969). “Certainly, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Kerouac are the literary giants of Beat Generation literature,” says James Gannon, Heritage Auction’s director of rare books. “Kerouac’s spontaneous prose and autobiographical material solidified his position among America’s post-war writers.”
Kerouac first gained attention with On the Road, his 1957 novel about two friends on a cross-country quest for meaning and true experience. It won glowing reviews that established Kerouac as the voice of his generation. The Dharma Bums was his sequel, a tale of friends exploring nature and Buddhism in search of truth and enlightenment.
“The story takes us from marathon parties and poetry jam sessions in San Francisco to solitude and mountain climbing in the High Sierras,” Gannon says. “It’s a classic of American literature.”
The typescript of The Dharma Bums, typed by Kerouac from his original scroll manuscript, is being offered in Heritage’s rare books auction scheduled for March in New York. It’s expected to realize at least $200,000.
“This is the draft presented in 1957 by Kerouac to his publisher, Viking Press, and from which the novel was published,” Gannon says. “We see substantial markings on the document, including handwritten notes by Kerouac himself in red pen.”
The typescript was passed along to Kerouac’s mother after his death. The non-profit Kerouac Project later purchased the typescript and placed it on display. They are auctioning the piece to raise funds for their mission of incubating the careers of writers and artists inspired by the legacy of Kerouac.
An anonymous bidder paid $2.4 million for Kerouac’s original scroll at a 2003 auction.