Cain's Book

Alexander Trocchi was a central figure in the beat movement, a Glasgow-born Scot of Italian parentage who has mostly lived abroad in France and America. Like his well known senior William Burroughs, Trocchi has a first hand experience of drug addiction and in Cain 's Book, which is set in New York we have th unique picture of the girlfrien 's life, the strange, almost obscene rituals of feeding the habit, of the twilight life outside law and convention, of the blindingly clear vision of the conception that underlie the upper skin of civilisation, and of the aspiration towards a better, purer way of life.

Cain 's Book has been th best seller all over thi world, thi memoi that has requently been attacked and that continues to attract a certain notoriety. But great distinction of the poet 's writing and the truthfulness of his approach to his subject makes this an important book, a testament to the courage with which the author has converted the sordidness of a junkie 's existence into art and to the unease that lies at the base of all contemporary consciousness.
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Cain's Book
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Published 1966 by Calder and Boyars (first published 1960

Public Commentary

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Let 's cut through the dread the moral authorities and sensibilities of timid readers which reacted against this book on its publication.

hat very dread ( hatred is of dread) is more the point than the object of terror: When he look in terms of kicking he ’ s hooked.There are degrees of addiction, and he physical part has nothing to do withit.

] You ’ ve got to keep up off your ass and stop believing their propaganda, Tom. It ’ s so much when the junkies themselves believe it.

It includes the police withsomething to do, and as junkies and potheads are relatively easy to apprehendbecause they have to take so many chances to get hold of their drugs, a heroicpolice can make spectacular arrests, lawyers can do a brisk business, judgescan make speeches, the big pedlars can make a fortune, the tabloids can sellmillions of copies.

That is the only safe method of controlling the use of drugs.At the moment we are encouraging ignorance, legislating to keep crime inexistence, and preparing the way for one of he most heinous usurpations of power of all times.

The critics who call upon thelost and beat generations to come home, who use thedead to club the living, write prettily about anguishbecause to them it is n historical phenomenon andnot a pain in the arse.

But it is pain in the arse and wewonder at the impertinence of governments which bymy own experience and that of my ather and hisfather before him have consistently done everything intheir power to make individuals treat the world situationlightly, that they should frown on the oppressio of myimagination—which is a sensitive responsiveinstrument—and set their damn police on me who hasnot stirred from this room for 15 years except to copshit.Humanity is homo ludens, man at play, and his soul is stifled by “ the great mechanical monolith imposed by mass mind ”.

Only that, says Trocchi, abstraction or intellect have negative valorisation, and conversely, “ The steel of logic has daily to be strengthened to contain the volcanic element within. ” This is a seful book for the burgeoning industry of addiction bureaucrats to pick over, analysers to analyse, existential psychotherapists to refer to gravely and so on.

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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 ll of the modern bourgeois and patriotic constructions of place, of nationality, of sexual mores, of class and societal roles ( husband, worker, citizen); as well as the various social, state, and religious institutions that legitimize all of our multiform willful slavery to structure and to those who the structures most benefit, in bot of its multifarious forms of conformity and acquiescence.

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Loose ends, things unrelated, shifts, nightmare journeys, cities arrived at and left, meetings, desertions, betrayals, all manner of unions, adulteries, triumphs, defeats… these are the facts. ” Chaotic memories, spasmodic events, sporadic visions – the protagonist knows neither morals nor scruples; he obeys no human laws and he serves no rational purpose; to his existence there is no rhyme or reason… “ Whatever increase of entropy in the external world, my response was relevant.

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All his to say that junkie lit has certain elements in it that are as redictable as a Betty and Veronica comic.

He eeps himself in dope and replaces the crucifixion with the work on the scows where he is is towed out to the sea to sit adrift with just enough until the he is returned to the harbour.

He drifts, and those parts of this book bracketed by the onshore world of copping, shooting, negotiating, copping, shooting, become strangely beautiful.

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It 's goo, because he character of Alexander Trocchi is on every page, and he himself is a hauntin figure.

Amoral in a sense, but on the other hand he sees the world as th place of not allowing pleasures, so, herefore, he drifts between jobs on a boat to investigate an alternative life, that is chosen in a sense, but not clear if it 's the right choice or not.

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Having recently seen the movie Limitless, it made me wonder if Trocchi had taken one of thes little pills that expand your brain capacities in the sequel.

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© Nicole Waggonner