A review of this — 1 year ago
Burroughs wrote this book much based on his own experience with addiction decades ago, and I think it’ll forever be potent.
It’s a very straight-forward, no-nonsense and no-tearjerker experience as Burroughs writes of Lee’s addictions, faltering friendships, his fleeting meets with people while trying to attain drugs as quickly as possible, at times doing anything for it. He goes from selling drugs to using them, to robbing drunks on trains to escaping the law, to trying to fence stuff to get money to get more drugs to avoid The Sickness, to get to Mexico to live a better life, to avoid his wife, to get together with her, to be able to get out of bed, to try and get off drugs completely, to get into less hardcore stuff to get back into heroin.
It’s very well-written, and eloquently cut-up in terms of what goes in which chapters. The descriptions of people, events and feelings aren’t poetic – it’s all straight-forward and I got the sense that his abuse just went on and on, a vortex that went round and round.
This book reminds me a lot of Irvine Welsh’s “Trainspotting”, although this is timeless and different. It’s like the inspirational big brother to Martin Amis’ “Money”.
And it stands out. Burroughs was a very livid writer and this is a powerful and telling work on addiction, and in his desire to explain the elements that make out addiction to everybody, he dispels myths and actually writes some really stupid shit (e.g. that cocaine does not create any form of dependency), so just have an open, questioning mind when reading this (as with every written word, anywhere).
In this edition from Penguin, there are several inclusions of nice extraneous material here: appendixes, a glossary and a long introduction.