As mentioned in several recent posts, May is “Get Caught Reading” Month — and we’ve been having fun featuring photos of well known people reading books, along with passages from what they’re reading. This post is my favorite so far — Jacqueline Kennedy, circa early 1960s, on the presidential plane reading DHARMA BUMS by Jack Kerouac. Well, we always knew Jackie had great taste.


Even though the First Lady’s left hand is obscuring the book’s front cover, we were able to make a guess based on “Jack” and last name ending with “C” and then searching for Kerouac book covers from this time period. Jackie is reading the Signet paperback edition (October 1959) that sold for fifty cents a copy.

Yesterday (May 8) was poet Gary Snyder’s 83rd birthday — and after posting one of his poems and wishing him a happy birthday, we ran across the above photo of Jackie Kennedy reading THE DHARMA BUMS by Jack Kerouac...and it felt like karma, because Kerouac based one of the book’s main characters, Japhy Ryder, on Gary Snyder. 

Here’s how Wikipedia summarizes the book: The Dharma Bums is a 1958 novel by Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac. The semi-fictional accounts in the novel are based upon events that occurred years after the events of On the Road. The main characters are the narrator Ray Smith, based on Kerouac, and Japhy Ryder, based on the poet and essayist Gary Snyder, who was instrumental in Kerouac’s introduction to Buddhism in the mid-1950s.

And here’s a passage from the book — a distinctive Kerouac jazz riff: 

“I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling.”

JACK KEROUAC, The Dharma Bums