Chris Santana:The Last Memoirist

Posted by Jasper Wilcox

chris santana mugshot

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

Fun In Jail - CoverDrunken Tourist - Cover

9 Responses to Chris Santana:The Last Memoirist

  1. I honestly cannot wait to read Fun in Jail. You’ve definitely got me interested, and I bet this guy has some stories to tell…

  2. Jasper says:

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that, M&P. I’m sure Chris will appreciate it also – he’s a good guy, all things considered – and he’s always been a good friend of mine.

  3. Mario Avalos says:

    I met Chris 2 months ago on a bus from Tacoma Washington to Portland. He was all sorts of messed up, I guess he had hopped on a train from Portland while drunk. This is definitely the same man. Besides snorting four meth pills he was definitely a gem, not a “good” person per se, but definitely a gem. crazy bastard.

  4. NotEasilyHad says:

    I think he is trying to run a scam in Portland Oregon. I spoke with him. He posted on Craigslist http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/crg/3388930940.html using a female pornstars name in his posting as someone who he is working with.

    • Although that is the name of a porn star, noteasilyhad, it is also the name of a real person living in Portland who so happens to be in the business of dealing with writers. I coincidentally encountered the same person.

  5. takis rellas says:

    I met chris long time ago.for sure i learn from him! I can’t wait to read his books!

  6. Enough already with this. I can’t get a date with that mugshot introducing me. People google these days “Jasper” and although I pretty much like what you wrote- can’t you find a better shot? Or say something redeeming-like I’m not a f’ing criminal,or a drunk or a tourist anywmore for that matter.
    Upside,- Takis wrote a reply- now there’s an old,dear, and true friend. Thanks for that at least.

    • There you have it, folks. Santana is apparently no longer a drunk, a tourist or a criminal. This must have happened recently. I wasn’t in the loop. I will say something redeeming about Mr. Santana – he is a great writer and has always been a good friend to me. So, with that said, I will put up a more flattering image of him.

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