Bored, indifferent, edgy, too hip to live,"" lounging and scrounging around poolhalls or drugstores, here they are-- four damaged youngsters in Portland, Oregon: Billy Lancing, a Negro, a brilliant pool player; Kol Mano, with the dreamy eyes of a lush and the tapered fingers of a cardsharp; easygoing Denny; and Jack Levitt, ""living on his wits and not making a very good job of it."" Actually this is Jack Levitt's story and surprisingly it is not a novel of social protest: beyond the original sins of his illegitimate birth and orphanage upbringing, Jack does not indulge self-pity or recrimination. The philosophy he reaches for and the point the book makes in classless, timeless-- that man's struggle for reclamation is an individual one, and that he can never more than temporarily achieve a ""freedom from the society of mankind without its absence."" So that this story is Jack's ""lifelong fistfight"" with society, on the streets, in reform school, in prison, and then his attempt to relate to it. Billy Lancing, who is killed for him- in prison, is the first connection. Sally, whom, he marries, is the second, and with her he wants the full life (children) as well as the better life (culture) even though in his attempt to confine her within this pattern he loses everything.... Carpenter's novel is written in a rough vernacular (there's quite an aggregate of four and five letter words) but it has power as does the book-- and an unaccommodating realism. It's stringent, lt's strong, and intensely alive.