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Cain's Book

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  318 ratings  ·  22 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 profl

Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 1st 1992 by Grove/Atlantic (first published 1963)
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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
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
RC Edrington
It was this book alone that convinced me that the life playing out between my ears needed release onto paper.
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lee Foust
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
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
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.
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
Brendan Boehning
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Lance Grabmiller
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....
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).
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
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.
Second read of Trocchi.....very disturbing almost Burroughs-like book about addiction and degradation.....if you love Burroughs you'll love this one......
Great, understated & overlooked novel of the beat era nobody's ever heard of.
Apr 10, 2012 Garrett is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
So far very poetic... a study of the life of heroin addicts.
Cain's Book will fuck you up!
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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. ” 4 likes
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