First US edition
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Preceded by||Visions of Gerard |
|Followed by||Satori in Paris |
Desolation Angels is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac, which makes up part of his Duluoz Legend. It was published in 1965, but was written years earlier, around the time On the Road was in the process of publication. According to the book's foreword, the opening section of the novel is taken almost directly from the journal he kept when he was a fire lookout on Desolation Peak in the North Cascade mountains of Washington state. Much of the psychological struggle which the novel's protagonist, Jack Duluoz, undergoes in the novel reflects Kerouac's own increasing disenchantment with the Buddhist philosophy with which he had previously been fascinated.
"Because of the objections of my early publishers I was not allowed to use the same personae names in each work." 
|Real-life person||Character name|
|Jack Kerouac||Jack Duluoz|
|William S. Burroughs||Bull Hubbard|
|Neal Cassady||Cody Pomeray|
|Gregory Corso||Raphael Urso|
|Henri Cru||Deni Bleu|
|Robert Duncan||Geoffrey Donald|
|Bill Garver||Old Bull Gaines|
|Allen Ginsberg||Irwin Garden|
|Louis Ginsberg||Harry Garden|
|Joyce Glassman / Joyce Johnson||Alyce Newman|
|Randall Jarrell||Varnum Random|
|Philip Lamantia||David D'Angeli|
|Norman Mailer||Harvey Marker|
|Michael McClure||Patrick McLear|
|Locke McCorkle||Kevin McLoch|
|John Montgomery||Alex Fairbrother|
|Peter Orlovsky||Simon Darlovsky|
|Julius Orlovsky||Lazarus Darlovsky|
|Alan Watts||Alex Aums|
|Gary Snyder||Jarry Wagner|
|William Carlos Williams||Dr. Williams|
Kerouac was not particularly conscientious about masking the identities of his friends in this work. Partway through Chapter 91, there is the line, "'Who wants to ride freight trains!' -Gregory- 'I dont dig all this crap where you ride freight trains and have to exchange butts with bums-'". Somehow both Kerouac and the editors missed that "Gregory" was not changed to "Raphael". Similarly, the locals of Tangiers call Old Bull Hubbard (Burroughs) "Boorows" in Chapter 52 of Book 2. In Chapter 43, he refers to "...the Sundays in Neal Cassady's writings..." The editors may have ignored this, since it refers to Neal as a writer instead of a friend. In Part 1 of Book 2 the locals are said to call Old Bull Gaines (Garver) "Senor Gahr-va". And in Chapter 80, the discussion of the meanings of Urso and Pomeray's names leads to a less than clear comparison to the name Corso.
The book is broken up into two sections called Desolation Angels and Passing Through, which are then subdivided into many shorter parts. Each part focuses on a specific location where Kerouac is at that time. The first section covers Kerouac's time on the mountain and immediately after he leaves the fire lookout. The foreword of the book mentions that Kerouac was hoping to get the second section, Passing Through, published as a standalone novel.
References in popular culture
- Bad Company's 1979 album Desolation Angels was named after this novel.
- Kathy Acker's novel Kathy Goes to Haiti references this book.
- The Austin, Texas-based country band Reckless Kelly has a song titled "Desolation Angels".
- "Desolation Row", by Bob Dylan, is said to have gotten its title from this novel.
- Roger Daltrey mentions the book on his solo album Parting Must be Painless on the Steve Swindells' song "Dont Wait on the Stairs"
- The name of alt.folk group "Mt Desolation", featuring members of The Killers, Keane, Mumford and Sons, and Noah and the Whale, is based on this book and Desolation Peak.
- Passion Pit's song "Sleepyhead" samples a quote from this novel.
- T. Rex (band)'s song "Rock On" from the album The Slider features the line "Desolation Angel on the cover of my paper, loves everyone, everyone.".
- Everybody Wants Some, a 2016 film by Richard Linklater, shows a character reading the book.
- Patti Smith's song 1959 references the book with the lines, "Wisdom was a teapot pouring from above. Desolation Angels served it up with love."
- Sandison, David. Jack Kerouac: An Illustrated Biography. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. 1999
- Who’s Who: A Guide to Kerouac’s Characters
- Kerouac, Jack. Visions of Cody. London and New York: Penguin Books Ltd. 1993.