March 4, 2009

Jack Kerouac, Tristessa (Penguin, repr. 1992). 96 pages.

My favorite line and perhaps the best example of Kerouac's refusal to edit is simply the straight-forward "I lost track of my thought there--" (56).

A roman a clef where Old Bull is played by Uncle Bill Burroughs. Tristessa seems too real not to be, which attests to Kerouac's skill as a story teller, if nothing else--but I think maybe more here.

The book is divided into two parts: the first happens over the course of one night and is a consideration of our connection to everything in overtly Buddhist terms--the chicken, the dog, the thugish El Indio junkie . . . ; the second, a narrative on the dangers of attachment (love?), jealousy, and their consequences.

Kerouac mixes morphine, Catholicism, drunkeness, Mexican poverty and Buddhism somehow in what seems like equal measures--all while slowly breaking our cynical hearts.

This is a great subway read.


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