Books: Bumbling Bunyan

DESOLATION ANGELS by Jack Kerouac. 366 pages. Coward-McCann. $5.95.

For those who dropped out after, say, On the Road, The Subterraneans or The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac is remembered as a likable literary wild man, a frightener of librarians, a pie-eyed piper for young men with no socks. Perhaps because socklessness no longer seems the major menace (the young are activists now, not beatniks), Kerouac, at 43, appears mild and gentle. The effectiveness of Kerouac's prose is as erratic as before, but the woozy mid-sentence plunges from eloquence to incompetence are no longer embarrassing....

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