on 10 March 2001
Cain's Book is undoubtedly one of the neglected masterpieces of twentieth-century literature. Perhaps the source of this is Trocchi's unflinching, at times disturbing, yet always honest look at the subject of heroin addiction; in fact, his own heroin addiction. But this is no vulgar piece of sensationalism. Trocchi was formerly a student of Samuel Beckett and it is his influence that can be felt on each page of Cain's Book: the magical, musical prose, the lapse into revery and memory, the coolly analytical look at daily reality, the play with form and language. But Trocchi was an independent writer of immense gifts and Cain's Book, rather than being a downbeat, depressing look at a sordid subject, is quite the reverse: the beauty of its prose, the movement of Trocchi's mind through life and memory, all lift this up into the highest level of literature. It should be bought by anyone with an interest in post-war literature, though admirers of Kerouac, Bukowski, Celine, Joyce, Beckett and William Burroughs should add this to their collection. They will certainly not be disappointed. A great book, then, it is perhaps the twentieth-century equivalent of De Quincey's classic Confessions of an Opium Eater... Get it now!