A Review of Tristessa by Jack Kerouac
So what happens? What's the narrative? I could tell you (briefly) but it's not important. It would be like describing the meal of hungry man when what is really at stake is the unbelievable hunger.
I have to confess that where Jack Kerouac is concerned I'm somewhat narrow-minded. I adore every single word, dictionary-wise and made-up, he ever wrote. Yeah I see that perhaps, particularly in Tristessa more than any other of his works, that he was a voyeur, that he observed the poor and the pained, the destitute and the intoxicated through the eyes of an author rather than the eyes of a buddha helper compassionate man. There are times in Tristessa when I just cringed - this fallen drug-addled angel that just needed medicine and help but Jack just sulks when he thinks she won't let him make love to her. He should take her to the hospital yet he takes her to a bar and glares as she takes in the eyes of others. He wonders at her blood on his coat and thinks nothing of the fact she just walks away other than the fact he wants her in his bed.
Ask The Dust by John Fante is the archetypal novel of the struggling artist who is so wrapped up in his own wonder that he treats others like mere props upon a stage. Tristessa runs it close. In the former there is irony - in Tristessa there is just sadness.
Jack Kerouac, mate. You wrote the most honest stuff I ever read - paranoid, selfish, brutal, magnificent. You made up your own words and you broke yourself to pieces in the process.
As I read Tristessa I just wanted to sneak in and take Jack out of that mad Mexico drug madness freakdom and take him to a park and see the sky and feel breath and open up to the true unchaotic wonder. Tristessa saddened me beyond belief. That doesn't mean you shouldn't read it. It's a snapshot documentary time in the life of a man who in my own weird world will always be more real than the next step. And it will always be to books such as this that I will turn when I am entirely lost. At three bottles of wine for a tenner at the corner shop that is likely to be fairly often...