'down and out' literature (1 Viewer)

I'm trying to assemble a list of "down and out" literature. Books about working-class people, poverty, urban life, petty criminals, etc. There is no hard-and-fast rule for this list, just whatever you think might fit. Both fiction and non-fiction interest me. Please add suggestions to this list, ye wise and well-read bukforum members.

Factotum by Charles Bukowski
Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
Autobiography of a Supertramp by W.H. Davies
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Hunger by Knut Hamsen
Pimp: The Story of My Life by Iceberg Slim
Junky by William S Burroughs
Curiosities of London Life by Charles Manby Smith
You Can't Win by Jack Black
Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby, Jr.
Fred Voss' poetry comes to mind. Jim Daniels' On The Line. Some anthologies edited by Canadian Tom Wayman (Paperwork, Going For Coffee). Rivethead by Ben Hamper. Life on the Line by Solange De Santis. Lots more.

Moll Flanders -
Daniel Defoe
Hard Times - Charles Dickens
Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
ATale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
Tess of the d'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
Cannery Row John - John Steinbeck
Love on the Dole - Walter Greenwood

The People of THe Abyss - Jack London
The Conditon of the Working Class in England - Friedrich Engels
Is it too late? Cool question. I would add in:

"Ain't No Makin It" by Jay McLeod

"Dubliners" by James Joyce

"The Great Depression" by David Shannon

"Working Stiffs Manifesto" by Iain Levison

(Heard decent things about Levisons other stuff, but have not read them)

Baudelaire also, maybe?

Not sure if it counts but these old slave narratives are hard-hitting:
No Beast So Fierce, by Edward Bunker is a great novel/memoir about criminals in Los Angeles.
The Devil All The Time, by Donald Ray Pollock is rife with white trash of all stripes.
South of Heaven-my favorite Jim Thompson about low-life pipe-line workers.
Short stories by Raymond Carver (if not suggested already). "Nobody Said Anything" is a great example of what I'm referring to.

If you have an interest in UK stuff...

A great historical NF title is: "London Labour & The London Poor" by Henry Mayhew:


An excellent read of what life was like for the lower classes in the C19th, I found it fascinating and have borrowed it many times from my local library over the years.

"Bricklight" (1980): A brilliant, well-titled anthology of working class poetry and stories, edited by Chris Searle. (I picked up my brand new copy in Manchester and all they asked for was a donation).

"Good Morning, Brothers!" A great autobio by trade unionist Jack Dash (who also appeared in "Bricklight"), loads of stuff about hardship and exploitation in that and what they did to fight it (their strategies were sometimes quite amusing and imaginative).

"Confessions of an English Opium-Eater" by Thomas de Quincey. (Burroughs sometimes quoted this work as one of his inspirations).
I may have already suggested way too many already, but my wife has just suggested some additional works by UK writers...

The first book is only if you love to sink your teeth into something really challenging:

* "The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists" by Robert Tressell (a monstrous tome written by a petty criminal who later became a house painter.


The book is about house painters discussing and arguing politics while at work. Tressell died quite young at 41 from TB and although his manuscript was continually rejected by publishers and did not get published in his lifetime, it is now considered a classic).

* "A Kestrel for a Knave" by Barry Hines (adapted into the classic British film: "Kes", directed by Ken Loach);

Books by Alan Sillitoe:

* "Saturday Night & Sunday Morning";

* "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" (although I've yet to read this book I've seen the B&W film, based on Sillitoe's book, I thought the metaphorical ending is absolutely stunning).

His wiki entry may interest you:


* Also "The L-shaped Room" by Lynne Reid Banks (made into a great B&W film starring Leslie Caron);

* And there's the playscript, "A Taste of Honey" by Shelagh Delaney. (Later made into a film).

All of the films I mentioned in this posting are called "kitchen sink dramas" and in the UK they come under the postwar cultural movement of that same name:


And there's some really great stuff in amongst them!
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South Street by David Bradley and by "South Street" the author means the South Street in Philadlephia. v good. straightforward.

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read Don Carpenters novel Hard Rain Falling a few weeks ago, definitely fits in the down and out literature and it was a pretty good read.

and now I go to find a little bio about the book, and it even says down and out... "Don Carpenter’s Hard Rain Falling is a tough-as-nails account of being down and out, but never down for good—a Dostoyevskian tale of crime, punishment, and the pursuit of an ever-elusive redemption. The novel follows the adventures of Jack Levitt, an orphaned teenager living off his wits in the fleabag hotels and seedy pool halls of Portland, Oregon. Jack befriends Billy Lancing, a young black runaway and pool hustler extraordinaire. A heist gone wrong gets Jack sent to reform school, from which he emerges embittered by abuse and solitary confinement. In the meantime Billy has joined the middle class—married, fathered a son, acquired a business and a mistress. But neither Jack nor Billy can escape their troubled pasts, and they will meet again in San Quentin before their strange double drama comes to a violent and revelatory end"
I have yet to read that but it's on my list. Did you read the NYRB edition with the George Pelecanos introduction?
I did read the NYRB edition, I have no memory of if I read the intro or not haha. The book was pretty good, a little slow in parts, but never long enough to set it aside for long
No Beast So Fierce, by Edward Bunker is a great novel/memoir about criminals in Los Angeles.
The Devil All The Time, by Donald Ray Pollock is rife with white trash of all stripes.
South of Heaven-my favorite Jim Thompson about low-life pipe-line workers.

Loved your line: ..."rife with white trash of all stripes."

Is that your own or did that come from a book somewhere?

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