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Cain's Book Paperback – November 11, 1993


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 252 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (November 11, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802133142
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802133144
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #650,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

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 profligate, the rebel who lives by no one's rules but his own. Like DeQuincey and Baudelaire before him, Trocchi's muse was drugs. But unlike his literary predecessors, in his roman a clef, Trocchi never romanticizes the source of his inspiration. If the experience of heroin, of the "fix," is central to Cain's Book, both its destructive force and the possibilities for creativity it creates are recognized and accepted without apology.

"Cain's Book is the classic of the late-1950s account of heroin addiction.... An un-self-forgiving existentialism, rendered with writerly exactness and muscularity, set this novel apart from all others of the genre."--William S. Burroughs

"Trocchi, especially in this, his masterpiece, along with writers such as William Burroughs, taught me that writers do not make up stories but attempt to find the truth."--Kathy Acker

"Cain's Book is a High Priest's raging celebration of the iron-in-the-soul, American style. The book is a literary landmark; it is probably the last great piece of writing in a classic linear format."--Terry Southern

"Cain's Book is a treasure."--Ken Kesey

"It is true, it has art, it is brave."--Norman Mailer

"Alexander Trocchi was a major figure in cosmopolitan new-consciousness fifties' and sixties' literature, and Cain's Book is his signal novel."--Allen Ginsberg

"Can't write about writing so will simply say that I find it excellent, very strong and moving--all the visual writing in particular--it seems to me of the highest order."--Samuel Beckett

Alexander Trocchi was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1925. During the 1950s and 1960s he lived mainly in Paris and New York and gained fame as one of the most talented writers, in both prose and poetry, of the period. In addition, he, along with Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, edited Merlin, one of the most noted literary journals of its day, which published works by Ionesco, Beckett, Sartre and others. At the same time he was actively involved in the operations of the famed Olympia Press, and produced a number of pornographic novels for that publishing house. Although the autobiographical Cain's Book became a best-seller, after its publication Trocchi's work was largely limited to short stories (including the collection The Outsiders) and poetry (including the volume Man at Leisure.) He never completed another novel and died in 1984.

About the Author

Alexander Trocchi (1925-84) was a controversial Scottish novelist of the beat generation. A heroin addict, he is best known for Cain's Book, an autobiographical account of his sexual misadventures and drug abuse whilst living in New York. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By jon dunn (jodunn@vassar.edu) on November 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
I came across this book through a friend, just looking for some quick fiction to read. And it was a quick read- but also one of the best books i have ever read. But don't think of this as Junky II. You will probably be disappointed. Not because it isn't as good, It may even be better, but Trocchi's style is completely different than Burroughs'. I felt Junky was missing something when i read it, like a part of me was unsatisfied even though the rest of me totally dug the book. After reading Cain's Book i realized what it was. Burroughs tells you the straight dope on heroin (pun intended,) in a straight style- but Trocchi absolutely glorifies it, justifies it, and turns being a heroin addict into an act of poetry. His meticulous attention to detail and description combined with an unbelievable talent for contorting the english language into prose so distorted yet completely enthralling, turns heroin from an object, as i felt it was depicted in Junky, into a character.. The book turns out to be a complete document of what it is to feel alienated. Not to mention that Trocchi also writes some of the best sex i have ever had. If you have ever hated the world, or yourself, you need to read this book.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
It was one of the definative founders of the Beat Generation who defined the term as: "Someone who can upon arrival score dope on a streetcorner in any foreign city without knowing the language in a relatively short amount of time", such was the exemplar: Alexander Trocchi, a bonafide "Cosmonaut of the interior" who has remained underground amongst the public altho Cain's Book is a veritable Book of Genesis in the unrepentant world of the proponents of heroin (the-hero-in-side-of-us-all)...I believe the book can only be fully fathomed by one of its own, and that any attempt at critical analysis (in any concentrated area besides linguistics and historical antecedents) will fall flat on its face from an overdose of misinterpretation as cultural relativity here relies upon narcotic initiation & adepthood. "INVIOABLE" is the greatest interpretation of narcotica ever devised with Trocchi as its herald. To laymen no doubt it would seem a glorification, not unjustified but perhaps dangerous, yet Trocchi shows us his heart as well as his arms; His sincerity is the measure of his success as much as his prose is imbued with all the charisma of a literary outlaw making the book a garden of eden for lovers of highly-stylized literature to prance through uninhibited by serpents and blood-apples. The book cannot be compared with W.S. Burrough's "Junky" which in his words is straightforward hard-boiled detective journalism not aimed at literary greatness; "Interzone" is the closest comparable work if your looking for such a summation, but Trocchi here exceeds WSB in everyway, not that there was ever any competition involved in Cain's Book's history, except in its ability to slay all that would be "Able" to match it in scope of intensity and truth.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Peeples on April 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
Cain's Book is Trocchi's self-reflexive look at his life as a junky. The introduction's for my copy, by Greil Marcus and Richard Seaver, are two of the most dismissive, pessimistic book intros I've read. They both read as lamentations of what could have been, what Trocchi could have written. Cain's Book is what he wrote, one of the few finished, long writings we have of his. Marcus and Seaver say the years of heroin addiction blunted his brilliance. And this is probably true. But, because of the heroin, he wrote Cain's Book. That doesn't make the abuse "right" or make Trocchi a hero, someone who deserves a higher status for his willingness to go all the way with drugs--no more than it makes the Beats heroes, or any of the hundreds of alcoholic writers. But it's part of the creation. Here, with Cain's Book, we have the shell.

Trocchi was a brilliant, talented writer. He was a heroin addict. The two are separate and one. The two melded and made Cain's Book.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tara on May 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
The sporadic bursts of description are luscious, but what hits me is his lucid analysis of America's growth-stunted approach to drugs and addicts. A truth teller.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Bouschor on December 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
Alexander Trocchi's first novel was an interesting work that differed from his later novels, yet displayed his innovative style. While comparisons to Burrrough's are inevitable, this shows drug addicts from another point of view. Trocchi was able to create very interesting characters, especially that of the father in the story, perhaps one of the best descriptions of a character ever. The story is very interesting at first but runs out of steam in the middle, and is able to pick it up somewhat in the end. Leonard Cohen acknowledged this book as an influence on his experimental novel Beautiful Losers. Well worth the read if you are a fan of the genre, but not the place to start.
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