About Me

Tollesbury, Essex, United Kingdom
I was born in the Summer of 1969 in Dagenham, just on the border of East London. School was largely unproductive but enjoyable, setting me up for something of a wayward but interesting life! On leaving school I had various jobs including putting up stalls at Romford Market, working in a record shop, putting up ceilings, gardening and road sweeping. After resigning from an insurance company to play in a band, I found myself unemployed for two years. Then finally I got back on my feet and I've been a psychiatric nurse since 1997. I wrote A Cleansing of Souls when I was 22 years old and followed it up with Tollesbury Time Forever almost twenty years later. I started writing The Bird That Nobody Sees in September 2011 and it was released in July 2012. In terms of writing, my heroes are Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck. I would also include Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits as literary influences. So that's me I guess - scruffy, happy and in love with literary fiction, music and life...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A Review of Tristessa by Jack Kerouac

Tristessa. What a beautiful name - you can't say it aloud wwithout feeling a sense of wonder, a sense of peace, a feeling that things are slowing down in the most perfect of ways. Yet this book (not sure it's a novel as it's not even a hundred pages yet not sure still it's a book as it's more like a film, a faded, dream sodden broken breaking film) is far from wonderous, far from peaceful and if pain is perfection then it's perfect indeed. Tristessa is what it's called and Tristessa is the name of the woman around whom Jack Kerouac bases this shattered piece of brilliance.

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...

Get it from Amazon here...


Shell Flower said...

Yeah, this novel is not exactly Jack's bodhisattva moment, but it's raw and honest at least. And his words are woven so nicely in everything he does that it's certainly worth reading, though I agree this one is a bit depressing.

Stu Ayris said...

Thank you for your comment Shell and for reading the review. I've just started Desolation Angels again - I go on this Jack Kerouac kick every so often which always leaves me exhausted. It often leads to me playing all my Tom Waits CDs and before I know it I'm a bit of a wreck. Oh well!