Land of the Lost Souls: My Life on the Streets

by

Author: Cadillac Man

Title: Land of the Lost Souls: My Life on the Streets

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Publication date: 2009

Number of pages: 288

Geographical setting: New York City

Time period: Modern Time

Plot summary: Land of the Lost Souls is the memoir of the Cadillac Man, who lives on the streets of Manhattan. A divorced veteran, the Cadillac Man has lived on the streets for sixteen years (at the time of the book’s printing) starting in the early 1990s. Occasionally sexually explicit, unexpectedly humorous, and deceptively philosophical, the Cadillac Man tells of his life on the streets. He paints his experiences in detail, sometimes graphically, and introduces the reader to the various types of people who live in his world. His world is just that, a different society, which has a cast of characters with odd street names such as Old Crow and the Weasel. He offers a glimpse at a world not often looked at by society, either by lack of opportunity or by choice and does so with a vividness, candor, and poignancy that can’t help but touch the reader.

Subject headings: New York City – Manhattan, Homelessness, Mental Health, Social Classes

Appeal: compelling, tragic, fast-paced, quirky, unhurried, bittersweet, engaging, details of New York City, strong language

Three terms that best describe the book: Philosophical, Poignant, and Straightforward

Similar authors and works:

Fiction:

John Grisham’s The Street Lawyer. Michael Brock is a lawyer from a high powered law firm who is taken hostage by a homeless man while at work. Instead of being angry with the homeless aggressor, he sympathizes with his plight and starts seeing how shallow his life is. Brock then focuses his energy in helping the homeless at a pro-bono law firm. The Street Lawyer gives a glimpse of when the world of the homeless interacts with “normal” society.

John Berger’s King: A Street Story. In this story, King (who is interestingly a dog), acts as the narrator, who lives with two homeless people Vico and Vica. The three have even joined a community of homeless people and live as normal a life as a homeless family can live. That is until a murder in the community that changes everything for the small group. Like Lost Souls, this book discusses the societies and cultures the homeless have.

Rosemary Aubert’s Free Reign, is part of a series about Ellis Portal, a homeless man who was once a respected judge. Portal finds a severed hand with a ring on it that he recognizes. He must solve the murder while placing himself in danger. One important fact that the Portal books and Lost Souls bring up is that the homeless often have a former life in which they were a “normal” part of society.

Non-Fiction:

Jim Flynn’s Stranger to the System (Life Portraits of a New York City Homeless Community). This work contains the story of 20 homeless people living in New York City. Flynn’s book connects with more analysis then compared to the Cadillac Man’s memoir. However, if one was intrigued by the memoir they may enjoy reading the personal stories in Flynn’s book.

Christopher Jencks’ The Homeless. Sociology professor Jencks, analyses the problem of homelessness in America specifically focusing on “visible homelessness”. Jencks theorizes that there are different reasons that cause one to become homeless. Given the Cadillac Man starts his book by stating he is no Rhodes Scholar, it is interesting to compare his philosophy with Professor Jenks.

Alyssa Katz’s Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us. Katz covers the role the government played (in some cases didn’t play) in the real estate boom. The result of the recent crash has been many of the new homeless are people who under qualified for loans they received and can no longer make house payments. There is a stereotype that the homeless are all crazy, lazy, or on drugs, Lost Souls and Katz’s work help dispel this myth.

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