I’ve long been a massive fan of Jack Kerouac and his work. Growing up in a French-Canadian family, his word are the gospel. He’s the most famous, widely read author our people have ever produced, and it’s not even close.
So when I say that Tristessa is a masterclass—not only in the Kerouac canon, but overall—you can trust that I mean it. Never before has a book so short gripped my imagination and tugged at my heartstrings like Tristessa did.
It’s a Warren Zevon love song written in the form of a 96 page novella. Think “Carmelita” meets Virginia Woolf meets Burroughs in the best of ways—genius.
To me, Jack Kerouac is at his best when describing the down-and-outs of society, the troubled and the beautiful and above all the damned. He’s a lot like Burroughs in that way, though the way he does it totally different.
While other writers would lose themselves in the raw hedonism and dirty needles of the Mexico City underground, Kerouac remains an outsider. A deeply invested, madly in love outsider. But still, an outsider, and an outsider he stays.
Kerouac keeps an artistic distance, that couples with this wonderful sense of melancholy longing to cut through your heart as explore the Mexican underground.
He creates a beautiful vignette of a deteriorating beauty in a deteriorating place in a deteriorating, wonderful city. A glorious, ravenous junky with an insatiable death wish. A city that refuses to die.
Tristessa is Jack Kerouac at his best. French-Canadian genius personified. A novella that tells a tale fifteen times its length. Fear and loathing in Mexico City told soft and sensitive and most of all told true.
I could wax lyrical about it all day, but I won’t. First thing in the morning, go to your local bookstore or Amazon or wherever else you buy your books and experience Tristessa’s beauty for yourself. You won’t regret it. Nobody does.
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