Land of the Lost Souls is part autobiography, part explanation of homelessness and attempt to humanize homeless folks, and part entertaining bullshit session. Cadillac Man is the street name of a former working-class family man who found himself homeless in New York for many years. After introducing us to his world in a chapter titled ‘Merry Fucking Christmas,’ Cadillac Man goes back to the beginning and gives us his story - how he lost a job, made some mistakes, and ended up on the streets. In this part of the book, he is unflinchingly honest about his mistakes and does little to rationalize away the way he hurt his wife and daughter.
Cadillac Man shows us the world of the streets, or at least his portion of it. He doesn’t like to stay in shelters, so he grabs a few hours of sleep outside here and there; he doesn’t panhandle, but will accept money or clothing from strangers who offer it; he picks up cans and bottles all day to redeem for the deposits. He portrays himself as a fiercely loyal friend, checking in on friends he is worried about, and chasing off those who would take advantage of their weakness from illness or drinking too much.
Land of the Lost Souls is written in his own profane and witty style, and the editors wisely chose to keep his voice intact, even when the writing isn’t formal or technically brilliant. His story - and the dozens of other people’s stories intertwined into it - illuminates a fact that many of us would like to ignore: that homeless people are human beings, with backgrounds, personalities, motivations, and fears as varied as the rest of humanity.