“I’m riding along with Tristessa in the cab, drunk with a big bottle of Juarez Bourbon whiskey in the till-bag railroad lootbag they’d accused me of holding in railroad 1952 - here I am in Mexico City, rainy Saturday night, mysteries, old dream sidestreets with no names reeling in, the little street where I’d walked thorugh crowds of gloomy Hobo Indians wrapped in tragic shawls enough to make you cry and you thought you saw knives flashing beneath the folds - lugubrious dreams as tragic as the one of Old Railroad Night where my father sits big of thighs in smoking car of night, outside a brakeman with red light and white light, lumbering in the sad vast mist tracks of life - but now I’m up on that Vegetable plateau Mexico, the moon of Citlapol a few nights earlier I’d stumbled to on the sleepy roof on the way to the ancient dripping stone toilet - Tristessa is high, beautiful as ever, going home gayly to go to bed and enjoy her morphine.” - Jack Kerouac from his novella Tristessa
Tristessa is by far my favorite of Kerouac’s novels. It’s totally dissimilar in style than his more popular books and I do understand why a person needing a clear linear arc would not like it because it is abstract and dreamlike and doesn’t develop or resolve. To me it is the one book he wrote where he broke free of the form and just let an abstract and hallucinatory interior landscape roll out across the page with none of the typical “Beat” hippie idealism. It’s bleak and candle-lit and full of ambiguity and despair and poverty-spirals, just like life is once you’re past your formative idealism and experiences and into the cynical and jaded stages after innocence has faded.