Curation #151 in my Kerouac bookshelf curation project is this softcover 2000 AK Press/Nabat 2nd edition (no printing number) of Jack Black's You Can't Win. 279 pages, it measures about 6" x 9" and is in very good condition. The provenance is that I ordered it from Amazon on March 14, 2016.
I bought this book because somewhere in my reading I came across the statement that this was William S. Burroughs' favorite book. Given such high praise, and given that I like to read the books that influenced Kerouac and the Beats, I pulled the trigger with Mr. Bezos. I wasn't disappointed.
Like Jack London's The Road (which I also recommend), this is a gritty autobiography of the hobo life in the late 1800s. Particularly in Black's case, it focuses a lot on criminal activity (for example, safecracking), which is not necessarily a practice of all hobos.
This is a fascinating read and I recommend it highly. It was a bestseller and went through five printings in the late 1920s. This version includes an introduction by William S. Burroughs and an afterword by Bruno Ruhland that addresses what became of Black after he wore out the outlaw life and reinvented himself.
Should this be on your Kerouac bookshelf? Only if you are collecting Beat-related items (it was Burroughs' favorite book) or want to know more about the hobo life (after all, Kerouac included a chapter in Lonesome Traveler titled "The Vanishing American Hobo" and did his share of freight-hopping and hanging with hobos).
Below is a picture of Shelf #5 (last one!) of my Kerouac bookshelf showing the placement of this book (5th from the top of the pile) on the day I started curating my collection. Next up: Caribou Planet by Gary Lawless.
|Shelf #5 of my Kerouac bookshelf|