Tristessa
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Tristessa (Duluoz Legend)

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3.7 of 5 stars 3.70  ·  rating details  ·  3,311 ratings  ·  145 reviews
Tristessa is the name with which Kerouac baptized Esperanza Villanueva, a Catholic Mexican young woman, a prostitute and addict to certain drugs, whom he fell in love with during one of his stays in Mexico -a country that he frequently visited - by the middle of the fifties. Wrapped in a spiritual atmosphere that expresses the yearnings of Kerouac to find himself, "Tristes...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published June 1st 1992 by Penguin Books (first published 1960)
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On the Road by Jack KerouacThe Dharma Bums by Jack KerouacBig Sur by Jack KerouacThe Subterraneans by Jack KerouacOn the Road by Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac's Best
8th out of 19 books — 69 voters
On the Road by Jack KerouacHowl and Other Poems by Allen GinsbergThe Dharma Bums by Jack KerouacNaked Lunch by William S. BurroughsJunky by William S. Burroughs
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Baiocco
Sep 28, 2007 Baiocco rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Cynical Kerouac Haters
Shelves: fiction
I'll admit I wrote my college entrance essay on "On The Road" and at that time in my life I was, like everyone else, inspired by the wild, wide-eyed, ideas of travel and adventure in America. I've returned to "On The Road" via "Dharma Bums" and "The Subterraneans" and "Desolation Angels" over the years to mixed results. I found instead of an entire philosophy of living that I could (and at one point did) subscribe to, rather sparks and gems of literary minerals I could use for inspiration. I gue...more
Evan
Tristessa, you wily little book flighty as a cat, I should practice Satyagraha and resist my sinister urges to hoo haa your ever-loving Holy graces and wonder in the traces of your manna, all manna of manna, all eat-table and unbeatable and good and thirst-slaking, forsaking my faculties and reveling in the alacrity of all things, like you Mr. K., chronicler of the haloed hollowed hollow-cheeked hollerers of Holiness.

Kerouac, you sing-song like sacred ping-pong, rhythmically and hymnally and hip...more
Stuart Ayris
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...more
Emily Seaman
I would actually rate this book a -1. Hated it. Read to page 20 TWICE (it's a 97 page book) and couldn't understand anything that was going on. Something about roosters. Call me crazy, but I require books with punctuation.
Jesse Osborne
While it was morphine-addled and convoluted, all of it was breathtakingly beautiful. The way Tristessa loves everything, cares about nothing, wants so badly to understand but at the same time is addicted to not knowing. The way Jack worships her, her name becomes a deity, Tristessa. He loved her, but in the age-old "could never be with her" way. It was heartbreaking, a reflection of the impermanence of living/loving, the inevitability of loss, but also the effortless beauty of the "live fast, di...more
Erik Rust
This little gem about love, lust, and junk amongst the slums in Mexico City reads like a free form journal entry slash jazz poem which sees our favorite beatnik chasing and pining over his spunky, drugged out muse (Tristessa) admist the haze of their strange romance.

The shorter span of this novella tends to work in Kerouac's favor, foregoing pure ramble for a more restrained, yet still rampant chronicle of the cloudy ecstacy of his doomed love-jaunt to Mexico. It all adds up to something like s...more
Ruth
A few weeks ago, I read On the Road by Kerouac. After reading an interview with him (published in the Paris Review), I discovered that On the Road was heavily edited. Kerouac disliked the editing (although I enjoyed the book and thought editor Malcolm Cowley did a good job), and after On the Road's publication, Kerouac told publishers he did not want any editing (other than correcting factual errors). So Tristessa is Kerouac's own words, stream of consciousness style. Although there are sentence...more
J.P.
Jack Kerouac is one of my all-time favorite writers, and a prime reason why I became a writer myself. The man wrote a slew of classic titles. However, Tristessa ain't one of them.

I feel like a heel for saying that, but it's only true. Tristessa is 96 pages of Jack Duluoz (Kerouac) mooning over a broken-down morphine junkie/whore who couldn't give a sh*t less about him. Kerouac compares this woman, who's based on a real-life fling he had down in Mexico City, to everyone from Ava Gardner and Grac...more
Eleanor
If Kerouak weren’t dead, I would spit in his face for writing this piece-of-crap book. Top four problems: 1) Kerouak’s attempts at Spanish are grotesque. I don’t speak Spanish, and even I know he’s got half the words wrong. 2) His idiotic whiteboy quasi-Buddhist philosophy is sprinkled everywhere. 3) He doesn’t bother to explain until the last quarter of the book that one of the characters -- an older dopefiend named Bill, who’s also a brilliant writer -- isn’t actually Burroughs. I don’t know w...more
Scott A. Nicholson
Tristessa was the last book in my casual jaunt through the mind of Kerouac and I'm glad it's over. Abundant errors plague the text, set to an at times confusing and senseless stream of consciousness, it's clear that this was one of Kerouac's more poetic works, which shows flaws in that he really wasn't much of a poet. Taking place in Mexico, Tristessa is the free-loving Mexican girl that got away or, rather, became a sexless junkie to Morphine before Kerouac could get it on with her. Kerouac, as...more
Thom Gibney
I read 'Tristessa' as I travelled through Mexico City and walked the same lonely dark streets that Jack Kerouac had walked sixty years earlier and it was a beautifully sad experience to feel share the sanctification of women out of our grasp. 'Tristessa' is a lament to opportunities in love lost as Kerouac combines all his earthly knowledge of beauty from Buddhism to Hinduism and Catholicism to worship the infallible Tristessa as she makes her descent into her junk-doomed catatonic state of nonc...more
Sasha Zbarskaya
Пространство для меня Керуак в этой повести создал, я его, захлебывающегося и бездыханного, как мне кажется, слышу.
А большего и не ожидалось.
Tatiana Rodrigues
Tristessa is one of those books I have to read at least more than once a year. Jack Kerouac carries the reader along with his thread of thoughts and emotions, and I keep falling in love over and over with the intimate, diary concistency of the narrative, to a point where one feels his love and sees the beauty he sees and the little details he was so in love with in Mexico.
I consider it a very exotic piece of Kerouac's work, and an introspective journey that brings along the reader and allows on...more
Robin Friedman
Many readers who love Kerouac consider "Tristessa" one of his finest novels. "Tristessa" has become the book of Kerouac that I return to most often. The book was initially rejected for publication, and it first appeared in paperback in 1960 following the success of "On the Road". The book initially may have been conceived as part of "On the Road." "Tristessa" is written in Kerouac's "spontaneous prose" style, with long rhythmic improvisational sentences and the feel of jazz. It is short, but dec...more
Peck
The story has a power that just carries the reader along. I felt almost like the invisible companion of Kerouac shadowing him through the wet saturday night streets of Mexico city and into the lives of Tristessa and her companions. There are quite a few parts that I can't make any head or heel of but they for once - and it surprises me - they don't matter; they don't dampen anything that is beautiful about the stream of consciousness I was riding on.
Brad Hodges


Truman Capote said of Jack Kerouac's work, "That's not writing, that's typing." Up to now I would have disagreed with him, as I found On the Road and The Dharma Bums to be engaging and at times thrilling well written, but as for Tristessa, a novella he wrote in 1960, well, it seems more like typing.

Ostensibly, it is about Kerouac's fascination with a prostitute and morphine addict in Mexico City. Her name is Esperanza (which means "hope"), but he dubs her Tristessa (which means "sorrow"). For 96...more
Harish Venkatesan
This is maybe a little more rambling/unstructured than usual for Kerouac (!), but overall, it's quintessential kerouacian stream-of-consciousness prose that's worth a read for when he finally hits his stride mid-book.

"since beginningless time and into the never-ending future, men have loved women without telling them, and the Lord has loved them without telling, and the void is not the void because there's nothing to be empty of."
Mel
Tristessa was breath-takingly gorgeous! I realised half way through he'd just been sitting in a junkie's room in Mexico City (with Burroughs) and it had been fascinating! It was so beautifully written, and touching and sad and everything that I love best about Kerouac.
Michael X
Kerouac's jumbled prose in this novel is totally lost on me. I got to page 30 and hardly understood what was going on. The book seems to be about a junky prostitute he's in love with, drinking and shooting up, and chickens, roosters and doves.
Nate Jordon
Jan 27, 2008 Nate Jordon rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Nate by: An advertisement from GAP...
The first book I ever read of Kerouac's - I had no idea who he was at the time - and the first paragraph of this little book had such a profound impact on me, it changed the way I looked at writing immediately, and forever.
Patrick
Couldn't finish. It reminds me of the "intellectual" ramblings of a drunk... Or a drug addict - oh wait! That's what it is!
Timmy
Oh man, this book is on my top 5 stuck on an island list
Bill
Tristessa has always been a bit of an enigma for me. Some people claim that it's Kerouac at his best, others claim that it's a somewhat forgettable footnote to his career. Personally speaking, I found it to lie somewhere in the middle of those two takes, though I do find that it's a perfect example of Kerouac writing his daily life in a way that's just slightly more literary and beautiful than it probably was.

The first quarter or so of the book I thought fell a little short. I don't know what I...more
Christopher
Another completely heartfelt book by Jack. This one is down in Mexico City, where Jack falls in love with some Mexican junkie and somehow romanticizes his feelings for her, probably because he was drunk and feeling maudlin. Still, what I always feel in Kerouac's books is that he reveals more than any other author in a deep and loving way. So many authors try to play God in their detached and "objective" voices and they wind up with all manner of trite and often unimportant literature. It would s...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Aug 28, 2008 Joshua Nomen-Mutatio rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: my 15 year old self
My ratings for several books are based on how I felt about them when I read them. Several books that I loved/"really liked" I don't feel similarly about any longer, to put as simply and as fairly as possible. Kerouac is probably a perfect example of this. I loved reading about the melancholy psychological and geographical wanderings of Mr. Kerouac and his friends when I was 15 years old. It spoke to me in that way that people will describe books like On The Road and Catcher in the Rye as speaki...more
Diamond
I have read this book many times. the last time was a few years go so the details are blurry and, like all my favorite books, i am left with the lingering thoughts & emotions the book imprinted on me.

This is one of my favorite books of all time. It's tied for my favorite Kerouac book (with The Subterraneans). This book is heartbreaking. It's raw, and honest. I don't mean honesty like we've come to be used to/expect in authors and narrators. I mean -- so honest you may shift in your seat and...more
Ricardo Mota
Tristessa é, nas palavras do próprio, o livro preferido de Jack Kerouac. A sua leitura era, para mim, obrigatória por causa disto.

É um livro estranho. Uma história de amor tóxico e intoxicante, ébria de droga e de álcool. Se Os Subterrâneos foi escrito numa corrida de álcool e comprimidos em 48h, Tristessa parece ser a versão maratona disso. A escrita desconexa mas poética e desarmante balança entre várias realidades distintas e recorre várias vezes a mesma cena, agarrando-se a pormenores de uma...more
Jaret
I had read On the Road and Dharma Bums before reading this book, and I thought it would be similar. You know what they say about assuming... I found the narration a bit too jarry and all over the place for my taste. If you are into that kind of aesthetic, by all means, enjoy the book. But I had a hard time reading for more than a few pages at a time.

The story didn't help in that regard either, it was really bleak compare to Kerouac's other works. Don't get me wrong, bleak is not bad in and of i...more
Belinda
Despite owning this and most of Kerouac's other work, I am still working my way through everything. This book had been on my shelves for years and on my to read list (in my mind) forever. We have been going through things in the house, getting rid of stuff, etc just to clean out and also because, well our house is a book hoarders dream and the boyfriend is kind of big and gets tired of bumping into things. I decided to finally read this after coming across it and saying "why the hell haven't I r...more
E. Bell
I'm not a fan of Jack Kerouac's books. Let's just get that out of the way. I like him, as a historic figure. I even like a few of his short stories, like Good Blonde. Kerouac did his thing and made his mark and I'm glad. But I can't abide his two most famous books, On the Road and The Dharma Bums. I simply can't get trough a novel-length novel that has no plot. Luckily, Tristessa is a very very slender book, not even a hundred pages. And, like its namesake, the junkie prostitute Tristessa, it's...more
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review of peoples reviews 2 17 May 18, 2012 03:06PM  
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Jack Kerouac was an American novelist, writer, poet, and artist. He is perhaps the best known of a group of writers and friends who came to be known as the Beat Generation, a term he himself created.

Kerouac's work was popular, but received little critical acclaim during his lifetime. Today, he is considered an important and influential writer who inspired others, including Tom Robbins, Lester Bang...more
More about Jack Kerouac...
On the Road The Dharma Bums Big Sur The Subterraneans Desolation Angels

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“The beauty of things must be that they end.” 89 likes
“I'll go to the south of Sicily in the winter, and paint memories of Arles – I'll buy a piano and Mozart me that – I'll write long sad tales about people in the legend of my life – This part is my part of the movie, let's hear yours” 24 likes
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