24 September 2014

Tristessa, by Jack Kerouac

I taught On the Road a few times and grew to love it, mostly for its prose* but also for its wild, somewhat desperate adventure. I happened upon Tristessa somewhat randomly in a used bookstore and was totally captivated by the description on the back, written by Ginsberg: "a narrative meditation studying a hen, a rooster, a dove, a cat, a chihuaha dog, family meat, and a ravishing, ravished junky lady, first in their crowded bedroom, then out to drunken streets, taco stands, & pads at dawn in Mexico City slums." Don't you want to read that book? I do. Unfortunately, Tristessa is not that book.

So, it may be that Kerouac's charm has somewhat worn off for me, or it may be that I just wasn't in the mood for it at the moment. But despite occasional moments of beauty, the book did not quite work for me. There would be these lovely sequences where the hum of the novel's rushed prose lifted into music and swept me up into the ride, and then a sudden clunk would pull me out and make me think gosh, I'll bet Kerouac was kind of an annoying blowhard if you actually hung out with him. There are these moments where you become vividly aware that these are the inflated ramblings of a spoiled white boy looking for thrills in Mexico, romanticizing the local drug addicts even as he remains somewhat contemptuous of them. It's kind of gross.





*Turns out I wrote this oddly contemplative blog review of it at the time -- I guess this blog used to be a lot more personal? Perhaps it will be again; life has been taking some unexpected turns lately and I want to explore various kinds of writing more...

1 comment:

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