Chris Santana:The Last Memoirist
January 28, 2012 9 Comments
Posted by Jasper Wilcox
Chris Santana is a fixture in downtown Portland. He’s been thrown out of every reputable establishment in the city and also some of the sleazier ones. And not just once either. He comes to Portland, OR. by way of New York City (or so he says.) Sometimes he’s from Manhattan; sometimes he’s from upstate. It’s hard to say for sure.
Santana is a little out of place in time. He’s no longer a young man but he still retains the elements of youth that matter – that matter if you’re a writer at least.
And Chris Santana is definitely a writer. Not of the modern school per se, but a writer nonetheless – a writer who still believes that writing is more about hunger than the actual process by which a person puts ink on paper in exchange for a specific dollar amount.
Chris Santana is the person whose books you really want to read. If you saw him on the street you might ask yourself: “what’s going on in that guy’s head?” You might see him walking around Portland decked to the nines like a business-man from an Arthur Miller play, or drunk and passed out on a park-bench with his face all covered in cocaine.
He’s got no time for apologies. He’s not a fantastic human being in any real moral sense. He’s hustled and cheated himself around the world. He’s been everywhere in the US and Europe too. He wound up in Portland because he heard it was full of bums and felt like he’d be right at home here.
He wrote all his books in jail but he’s no O’Henry. His were no white-collar crimes. Chris Santana has a long rap-sheet – he is not a saint. He won’t work but to write and he won’t write until he sobers up and he won’t sober up until they lock him up – or until he dies.
His books never sold well, maybe he never knew how to publicize them or maybe it’s because of unscrupulous agents, but it’s probably because he’s a drunk and not a business-man.
Chris Santana’s books deserve to sell for the same reason Bukowski’s books deserve to sell – or Jean Genet’s. He carries on the tradition of the 20th century memoirists without imitating them.
Santana is more appealing to me than William Burroughs. I enjoy Santana’s lucidity. He’s no high-artist and he has no desire to be. He’s happy to be a bum and a drunk – to be his own best character – to live art, not to merely create it.
He’s something like a cross between Jean Genet and Nelson Algren and his travels are much more extensive than Kerouac’s.
I love the 20th century memoirists. The ones who believed that art was living and breathing – that it was happening all around them – that even what’s ugly and dark in the world might find a way to present itself in a more flattering light.
If you like Kerouac, Burroughs, Bukowski, Celine, Genet, Henry Miller or Christopher Isherwood – you would love Chris Santana too – who might just be the most real of them all.
Click on the book covers below to buy one