For Great Writing, Kerouac Had it Covered

For Great Writing, Kerouac Had it Covered

"Tristessa": a Kerouac masterpiece

I am not generally a fan of fiction.  When a work of fiction captures and holds my interest, it is likely to consist of two factors:  a good writing style, and at least some degree of autobiography.  While most of Jack Kerouac's material meets and exceeds these expectations, he really has it covered in "Tristessa."  This 96-page novel,, published in 1960, tells the story of Kerouac's infatuation with a beautiful woman he'd met when he was living in Mexico. 


Similar to some of Kerouac's other works, Tristessa is written in a style he referred to as "spontaneous prose."  The writing style and the story itself come together as one of the most excellent novels I have ever read.  It is almost as if he were telling the story at the same time he was living it.  The reader is drawn into the story, right along with Jack, Tristessa, and the other characters. 


While the story itself is impressive, it also sheds a light on the hopelessness of drug addiction.  Part of this focuses on the title character, who is literally dying from her addiction.  The other part, though, is equally important:  showing that even when one has the best of intentions, it is impossible to become a part of that "world."  Having compassion, and even understanding, for someone else's pain is indeed possible;  but it is not possible to experience it oneself. 


When Jack leaves Mexico, he knows he is leaving Tristessa permanently.  Hopes, dreams, and even love cannot compete with reality.  He must move on with his own life, holding both good and bad memories, knowing they can never be anything more than memories. 


I think all Kerouac fans will love Tristessa.  If you have never read anything by Jack Kerouac, this little gem might be a good place to start.  The story aside, he has an amazing way of writing.  I have read most of his books, and this is one of my favorites.