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Wake Up: A Life of the Buddha

Wake Up: A Life of the Buddha

Paperback Penguin Modern Classics

By (author) Jack Kerouac

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  • Publisher: PENGUIN CLASSICS
  • Format: Paperback | 176 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 12mm | 141g
  • Publication date: 28 August 2008
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0141189460
  • ISBN 13: 9780141189468
  • Sales rank: 61,301

Product description

Never before published in Kerouac's lifetime, this 1955 biography of the founder of Buddhism is a clear and powerful study of Siddartha Gautama's life and works. "Wake Up" recounts the story of Prince Siddhartha's royal upbringing and his father's wish to protect him from all human suffering, despite a prediction that he would become a great holy man in later life. Departing from his father's palace, Siddhartha adopts a homeless life, struggles with his meditations, and eventually finds Enlightenment. Written at the end of Kerouac's career, when he became increasingly interested in Buddhist teachings, and collected for the first time in one book, this fresh and accessible biography is both an important addition to Kerouac's work and a valuable introduction to the world of Buddhism itself.

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Author information

Jack Kerouac was an American novelist, writer, poet and artist. Along with William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, he is amongst the best known of the writers (and friends) known as the Beat Generation. Kerouac spent many of the years between 1947 and 1951 on the road, inspiring the partly autobiographical and greatly acclaimed novel On the Road. Kerouac's search for a life worth living in the 1950's led him to recreational drug use and to travel, not only across North America but throughout the world. In 1954, Kerouac discovered Dwight Goddard's A Buddhist Bible at the San Jose library, which marked the beginning of his immersion into Buddhism. Kerouac's work was popular, but received little critical acclaim during his lifetime. Today, he is considered an important and influential writer who inspired others, including Tom Robbins, Lester Bangs and Ken Kesey, and musicians such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Morrissey.

Review quote

"["Wake Up"] contributes significantly to the fascinating picture of Kerouac's spirituality." -Jonah Raskin, "The Beat Review"

Editorial reviews

A fan's notes on the Awakened One.Iconic Beat writer Kerouac, whose On the Road celebrated its 50th anniversary with suitable fanfare last year, took a modest interest in Buddhism while hanging out with Allen Ginsberg and dabbling in college in New York. Later in the 1950s, his studies became more serious, and he began to think of himself as a "dumbsaint bodhisattva" who, inclined to poverty and wandering, was a living embodiment of what Gautama, ne Siddhartha, was up to back in the fifth century BCE. (It didn't hurt the self-identification that Buddha "was a handsome young prince.") This previously unpublished work is a rather indifferently written biography of the Buddha, largely cribbed from other sources - a notebook for Kerouac's own studies, in other words, and apparently not something he was in a hurry to publish during his short but prolific lifetime. There are a few Kerouackian touches to the piece, as when the author instructs that Buddha "was no slob-like figure of mirth," but instead "the Jesus Christ of India and almost all Asia." Kerouac offers a few novelistic touches, sometimes to beautiful effect, as when he writes, "The groundmist of 3 A.M. rose with all the dolors of the world." However, the overall narrative stance is matter-of-fact, encyclopedic and conventional, with a kind of didactic approach to dialogue, as when Buddha tells an Indian king, "Though your face has become wrinkled, in the perception of your eyes, there are no signs of age, no wrinkles. Then, wrinkles are the symbol of change, and the un-wrinkled is the symbol of the un-changing. That which is changing must suffer destruction, but the unchanging is free from deaths and rebirths."Kerouac completists will have to have this, of course. Literary-minded students of Buddhism will find Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha to be the more attractive introduction, and devotees will have had this story from many other sources, as Kerouac himself did. (Kirkus Reviews)