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Cain's Book

4.03  ·  Rating Details  ·  349 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
This is the journal of Joe Necchi, a junkie living on a barge that plies the rivers and bays of New York. Joe’s world is the half-world of drugs and addicts—the world of furtive fixes in sordid Harlem apartments, of police pursuits down deserted subway stations. Junk for Necchi, however, is a tool, freely chosen and fully justified; he is Cain, the malcontent, the profliga ...more
Paperback, 252 pages
Published November 11th 1993 by Grove Press (first published 1960)
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Fight Club by Chuck PalahniukFear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. ThompsonThe Combinations by Louis ArmandNaked Lunch by William S. BurroughsThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Cult fiction
59th out of 212 books — 142 voters
Ice by Anna KavanThe Unfortunates by B.S. JohnsonChristie Malry's Own Double-Entry by B.S. JohnsonImpossible Object by Nicholas MosleyThe Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard
British Experimental Novels 1940-1980
29th out of 89 books — 29 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 981)
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MJ Nicholls
Trocchi’s final and most fêted work (apart from the odds-and-ends poetry shambles, Man at Leisure, also republished by Alma Classics), is a fragmented and not entirely unpretentious novel-of-sorts that seems to be more of a deeply psychological exploration of the author’s uncompromising outsider’s worldview than any sort of seminal “drug” novel as labelled by most, including Burroughs. The drug use is a mere fact of life and incidental to the more interesting business of what this scow-dwelling ...more
RC Edrington
Jan 22, 2008 RC Edrington rated it it was amazing
It was this book alone that convinced me that the life playing out between my ears needed release onto paper.
Jun 19, 2010 Abailart rated it it was amazing
Let's cut through the dread the moral authorities and sensibilities of timid readers which reacted against this book on its publication. Yes, horror of horrors, people do have sex, sometimes frequently, and they do take drugs. While not wanting to labour the point of the latter or offer any value judgment, I refer you to Trocchi's own polemic. That very dread (hatred is of dread) is more the point than the object of terror:

When he thinks in terms of kicking he’s hooked.
There are degrees of addic
Aug 18, 2013 Donna rated it it was amazing
This book wasn't at all what I expected. Junkie lit, no matter how good, can't help being formulaic. Those Mission Impossible episodes where Barnie play-acts the sweat-soaked terrors of withdrawal represents one end of the continuum. French Connection 2, Panic in Needle Park, Trainspotting, the dirty cottons of William Burroughs' oeuvre, and so on, nod off along various parts of this continuum and we know every station of this cross. It's part of our folklore.
I don't know exactly what the junki
Mar 14, 2008 Tosh rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: For those who want to live through other people's lives
Alexander Trocchi is without a doubt is one of the most interesting characters in 20th Century literature. Almost invisible, yet he was at every scene in the post-war years in Europe and America. Tight with the Paris Review crowd, The Situationists, the porn group at Olympia, and drug addict galore.

'Cain's Book' is such a narrative about a junkie - and there have been books on junkie's before, but this one is sort of the iconic original.
Brent Hayward
Sep 16, 2015 Brent Hayward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What begins as a junkie's self-indulgent narrative slowly opens up to become a engrossingly nihilistic portrait of a solitary and broken man who has ended up alone on a barge in the Hudson River. A thinly veiled autobiography, Cain's Book is part metafiction, as the writer moves back and forth in time from Scotland, where he grew up in a boarding house, to NYC, either planning or working on the ms, to shooting up H, philosophising about inaction and meaninglessness, and drifting either on the wa ...more
Lee Foust
Dec 25, 2012 Lee Foust rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A remarkable novel by just about any standard. Forget those who say it's about addiction: It is not. It is rather an honest attempt to place a troubled and rebellious human consciousness into a literary space between the many false value systems offered it by all of the anti-existentialist power structures: the ethos of the capitalist religion of work, the moralist conformity of marriage, and all of the modern bourgeois and patriotic constructions of place, of nationality, of sexual mores, of cl ...more
Aug 30, 2012 Tori rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tori by: Jeremy
I don't remember feeling this torn on how many stars to rate a book on here. I'm going with 4 stars for now because I did enjoy it enough to read it within a 24 hour period. At various points as I read, I thought it might be anywhere from 1 star to 5 stars. I was so angry by the time I was done at the wasted potential. I felt like it could have been so much better than it was. I loved the first half but didn't feel like the second half really added much to the book. In some ways, I thought it wa ...more
Jan 20, 2009 Jon rated it really liked it
The best heroin addiction book that exists, because it is much more than a heroin addiction book. If "Junky" weren't already a thinkin man's book, I'd call this the thinkin man's Junky.
So i don't really know what to say besides, go read it.
Mar 01, 2010 Tim rated it it was ok
I read it like 18 years ago, I liked it but I can't really remember anything except for him for being all alone on the barge, and now and then having sex with various other lonely barge operators.
Jan 12, 2015 Jessica rated it it was ok
This book is supposed to be something of a cult novel about drug addiction, but I must say I don't see the appeal. I enjoyed the parts of the book with more plot and story, like the memories of his father and his interactions with other junkies, but I was bored every time Trocchi waxed poetic about his drug use. As a person who tends more towards plot and story, I can see why this book may appeal to someone else, but not to me. Many people praise the language and his power of description, which ...more
Tom Cöle
Oct 13, 2015 Tom Cöle rated it did not like it
Good grief, what overrated dross. Navel-gazing twaddle with absolutely nothing to recommend it. There's no real narrative to speak of; nothing happens; there aren't any penetrating psychological insights; the characters the narrator meets with are pseudonymous and poorly drawn. I tried to find a copy of this for years without success and am truly grateful I didn't cave in to the urge to pay 20 or more for it second-hand on Amazon. Trocchi sounds like an interesting character, to judge from his b ...more
Brendan Boehning
Feb 14, 2014 Brendan Boehning rated it really liked it
The closest thing to a Situationist novel in existence. Trocchi mined far more poetry out of a peripatetic junkie lifestyle than could ever be expected, and perhaps unsurprisingly, he never published again. Cain's Book finds hidden eddies in the seemingly static water of banal everyday life, and the vistas this book opens up remain hardly explored 50 years on.
Mar 09, 2015 Aaron rated it liked it
I would say it was just alright. I considered it to be a little disjointed which is I guess what a junky should sound like when writing a novel. I would say Trocchi is like methadone where Welsh is like pure Persian White. Although I will probably read his other novel as well at some point just to see if it's any better. Or maybe not. I seem to be a little burned out on the junky genre.
Jun 08, 2016 Timothy rated it liked it
The life of a junky, through the eyes of a junky. It's wrote how it is, the torments of that lifestyle. As real as it gets.
Mar 16, 2016 Madan rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book! An image of a man sitting down and lookin at the world around him on a sunny day is what i see most.
Jul 22, 2012 Jeff rated it really liked it
Shelves: drugs, fiction
The writing around the day-to-day junkie life and the social and psychological aspects of addition is excellent - as good as any of the writing on heroin by the usual suspects.

The flashback sections, not so hot. And there's a whole chapter around a storm while on a scow that perhaps would have been at home in Moby-Dick but didn't add much here. I guess Trocchi just had this scow vignette sitting around and had to slip it in somewhere.

Ryan Williams
Aug 22, 2015 Ryan Williams rated it did not like it
Although billed as the British counterpart to Burroughs' Junky, the book suffers from the comparison. One minute it's a quasi-memoir, the next a meandering dissertation about freedom, with the plot picked up and dropped like a used firework. Disappointing.
Lance Grabmiller
Jul 25, 2009 Lance Grabmiller rated it it was amazing
Waited too long to write this review. Can't really say why I loved this book so much. Something about its structure, subject and way of seeing all worked on me in various ways. Perhaps in too many personal ways to give it an impartial review....
Feb 20, 2011 Richard rated it really liked it
So I stumbled across references to this book in two other books I just finished which reminded me to add to my shelf. Read this in college, lost my copy sadly...but a great read for those of you who enjoy Burroughs (W.S. etc).
May 17, 2013 John rated it liked it
An interesting read and I enjoy reading period pieces that take place in NYC. Having read a number of books that deal with addiction this one does a good job of portraying the life of a junkie.
Jaimee Hart
Feb 22, 2013 Jaimee Hart rated it really liked it
What I loved about this book was the narrative. Completely unorthadox in every way! I felt like I was in this guys head to an extent, it seemed like an intimate converation.
Dec 07, 2010 Unclemark rated it it was amazing
Second read of Trocchi.....very disturbing almost Burroughs-like book about addiction and degradation.....if you love Burroughs you'll love this one......
Mar 21, 2008 Tcunniff rated it it was amazing
Great, understated & overlooked novel of the beat era nobody's ever heard of.
Apr 10, 2012 Garrett is currently reading it
So far very poetic... a study of the life of heroin addicts.
Jan 05, 2009 Jason rated it liked it
Cain's Book will fuck you up!
Kayla marked it as to-read
Jul 19, 2016
Jonathan C.
Jonathan C. rated it it was amazing
Jul 18, 2016
Matt marked it as to-read
Jul 18, 2016
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Jul 16, 2016
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Scottish novelist. He lived in Paris in the early 1950s and edited the literary magazine Merlin, which published Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, Christopher Logue and Pablo Neruda, among others. Although he was never published in Merlin, American writer Terry Southern (who lived in Paris from 1948-1952) became a close friend of both Trocchi and his colleague Richard Seaver, and the three later co-ed ...more
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“It provides the police with something to do, and as junkies and potheads are relatively easy to apprehend because they have to take so many chances to get hold of their drugs, a heroic police can make spectacular arrests, lawyers can do a brisk business, judges can make speeches, the big pedlars can make a fortune, the tabloids can sell millions of copies. John Citizen can sit back feeling exonerated and watch evil get its deserts. That's the junk scene, man. Everyone gets something out of it except the junkie. If he's lucky he can creep round the corner and get a fix. But it wasn't the junk that made him creep. ” 5 likes
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