Jason Brown (Toastx2)'s Reviews > Hobo

Hobo by Eddy Joe Cotton
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's review
Feb 25, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: reviewed

Hobo has garnered higher tiered reviews from a number of publications and periodicals. I hate to have to dissent as it was a very GOOD book, but this was by no means a masterpiece of any sort.

Subtitled “A Young Man’s thoughts on Trains and Tramping in America”, Hobo does holds one’s attention. Eddy Joe Cotton splays out his thoughts and delivers a number of keen visuals detailing place and people he has seen. He meets a number of interesting travelers while on the road, each sharing insight and knowledge of their journeys. Portions are humorous, others sad. I should point out that Cotton is not a bum. He is not homeless. He is not any of those derogatory or sad names that our society assigns to every person on the road, regardless of condition or intent.

Cotton has a great mind for details and introspection. Hobo is a non-fiction account, as he leave his home in the Denver area and decides to hit the road with nothing but what is on his back. He begins keeping notes on his musings on spare napkins, scrap paper, and when available, notebooks. As he goes, descriptions of his experiences unfold instilling a feeling of wanderlust. Anyone who has uprooted themselves on purpose will begin to feel the nag to move on tickling in the back of their mind (i know i did). Those who have always been snug at home will think about being on the road, though i dont know they will ever “get it”. He throws in a lot of the history of hobo-ing, how it started, how it continues, the mind set of folks on the road.

I have a problem with this book however, it is barely the tip of his journey.

Cotton spent 6 years on the road, wandering and living day to day whim to whim. Hobo covers only the first 30 days on the road. It details travel on the rail lines, hitchhiking, food, safety, etc. he even picks up a girl friend along the way. Auto-magically, he is then whisked away to a crappy motel room where he is transcribing his 23 journals (culminated over the years) into this book.

Really? Six years on the road? Why do we need to read about him sitting in a motel room writing? It could have ended with a simple “and then i reintegrated with society, but really only the fringe as i can never again trust a world that hides the beauty of living from the masses”. Otherwise, expanding his story to be more than just the initial month to increase his available material… Just a thought.

Perhaps it was just a poor transition from road to writing, but i felt disjointed and unclear as to what was occurring at the end. Though he has a history available for sharing, as a reader, i was left feeling that i had gotten shucked. In a nutshell it felt i got three weeks on the road with someone who regretted it a good deal of the time, some good prose through out, as many chances to crash on a couch as possible, and then a quick escape. It felt false in some ways, how i would expect it to turn out if i were to ride the a carousel, then write a book about equestrianism.

Overall a good read, but it’s no Kerouac.
Well worth picking up.

If you are looking for a more dated but sturdy view of tramping, check out “The Gentle Art of Tramping” by Robert Holden. Published in 1927, it is a bit harder to come across these days, but excellent (if you can read it. at some points the language is completely indecipherable).

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