This 1956 novel follows a down on his luck man as he wanders the street, tries to make it in America, and doesn’t quite know what happens when you’ve already fallen through the cracks and are seeking a life with dignity and purpose in a world that ultimately doesn’t care if you live or die. And given what the US was in 1930s, those cracks and that lack of care are quite big.
If I were to write a completely reductive book review (a thing I often do) this book feels like…what if Jack Kerouac wrote Cannery Row. And that has good things and not so good things about it. For one, I think this is a much better book than those Jack Kerouac books I’ve read, but also this book is a chaotic and grim walk through the streets of Mexico and New Orleans, through the perspective of the “down there” people who inhabit those spaces, and it can sometimes feel like way too much too much of the time.
Sometimes when this happens, it feels deeply condescending or inauthentic or a kind of stolen squalor, (and I am thinking of Erskine Caldwell and plenty of other writers –cough cough American Dirt cough cough), and I don’t think that’s happening here. But the vernacular in this book is so affected at times that I honestly can’t tell how good it is (though I am thinking it’s quite good) but at the same time, I did not enjoy reading it much and didn’t feel super strong connections to the world being narrated in this story.