Books: Road Tramp Blues

HARD TRAVELLIN' by Kenneth Allsop. 448 pages. The New American Library. $7.95.

Is the hobo simply the American loser, a blot on a successful nation's personnel record? Or is he the last of the rugged individualists, a folk-hero relic of the frontier, a living rebuke to contemporary organization man?

Speaking as an informed outsider, British Journalist Kenneth Allsop suggests that Americans have never quite made up their minds on the answer. Their ambiguous feelings about hoboes, he says, are nurtured by deeper ambiguous feelings about themselves. "The shock trooper of the American expansion,...