cling onto what you’ve got and don’t try to be something you’re not.
if life’s a big story, what is its moral?
it’s the end of one book in your life,
though some of the characters will continue into the next.
no-one knows who, though,
because that book is yet to be written,
and you only learn from it as it unfolds.
i’m going walkabouts
to a strange place and i don’t really know where.
it’s both a physical and mental place;
i’ll have to wander until i know my way around.
who knows where i’ll end up,
perhaps distanced from anyone else
(and oblivious to any new characters who might turn up).
i might bury myself in the crumpled pages of an older book,
sink between the lines and into the fabric of the book itself
and just relive past moments. i’ll disappear
faster than a tonne weight into quicksand.
i will live breathe think nostalgia,
and if i think hard enough i might even think i’m back there.
the good times. the past.
here’s to what has been. the simple times.
let’s just hope when i look back i don’t turn to salt.
nothing’s either good or bad
nothing’s that clear cut
you’re trying to look through water
when in front of you there’s mud
well you were standing on the boulevard
with all your broken friends
and i was sitting with my eyes out
unsure of who i am
you came up to me and said
you know what i do?
i said no i didn’t
but i’m sure i soon will
she said i clean the windows
of the local office towers
i hang five hundred feet in the air
working for hours
i said how do you want to die
alone without a hope
she said with my wife and kids
unless this is a joke
she sat down and we talked
she ate and passed me the bill
she said you’re my host for today
take my gratitude if you will
i said that’s all very well
but won’t you lend me your advice
she said i’m not qualified
but maybe this’ll suffice
she dropped in my hand
a package of brown
with a red-orange ribbon
and she said with a frown
i’ve been looking for someone
to give this to
you don’t seem quite right
though maybe you’ll do
open it and see
what lies inside
open it and you’ll find yourself
taken on a ride
if you can run then you can hide.
and when they tear through your side
and when you’re hurt then you can fight
even if you’ll never see the light
and you will thirst and you will bleed
and you will vomit and you will plead
when you’re abandoned on the floor
and you can’t take any more
and when you collapse and you when you cry
when you feel the end is nigh
just try to run and hide.
my thoughts unfurling
cold as stone, unfeeling
making sure I’m retaining
what I want to say
my mind blurring
warming up, now swirling
what did I want to say?
“to what was I referring?”
and now you’re talking
my brain’s adjouring
I feel myself burning
my voice yearning
for what I meant to say
when you come around.
i want to hurt someone.
i still want to hurt someone.
to punch them in the face and hit them in the stomach
and kick them in the face when they’re down.
just to destroy and destroy and never to stop.
i feel the hate pulsing through me
and there’s nothing i can do to change it.
it’s too late at night to start trashing my room
or to hit things.
everything is a target and everything is a weapon.
i have to try and stay calm and i have to try and stop shaking.
i hit my bed, i punch my phone.
i put on a CD and i try to listen.
i pick up a pencil to write but i break it with my hands.
i give up and i fall asleep before i realise.
don’t fall from grace. jump
says the writing on the wall
if you don’t live life fast
you’re not living life at all.
10/10. Drug rehab memoirs by James Frey.
I’m not entirely sure how I start writing a review of this book. Maybe it’s best to start by pointing out the slightly strange way it’s typeset – all left-aligned, with sometimes strange line breaks, lack of quotation marks (and indeed quite often he omits various pieces of grammar when it suits his purpose) and every now and again, a Word is capitalised for no particularly good reason. In short, it looks and reads like it’s been written as a stream of thoughts onto the page. And this is what it is.
It starts. James on a plane. He doesn’t know why, he doesn’t remember even boarding it. His front teeth are badly damaged and he has a hole in his cheek. The only things he has are his clothes, which are “covered in a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood”. He finds it hard to walk. His parents collect him at the airport and take him to a drug rehab centre, which he describes as “Functional. Simple. Menacing”. And for the first few days, he hates it.
Frey’s simple narrative works wonderfully. It pulls you in, keeps you reading, keeps you thinking and doesn’t let go, and in this way doesn’t feel like a memoir. It’s written mostly in the present tense and he’s the main voice all the way through. In fact, it’s like you’re sitting next to him and he’s telling you everything that’s going through his head. You can feel as he feels, whether you’ve passed out in a gutter from too much drink or snorted lines of crystal meth or not, because in this book he doesn’t take drugs or drink. He’s not on the road to hell, he’s on the road back, and you get to walk with him every moment of it.
He’s stubborn. He refuses to go through the Twelve Steps of AA, refuses to believe in any form of Higher Power or God, and in fact rejects most of the Clinc’s ideology and rules. He gets in fights and has flashbacks and blackouts and vomits every morning, but as he improves, you can’t help but feel happy. As the book gets to the point where he’s about to leave, you want to turn the pages and read faster than is physically possible because of the euphoria he describes. This isn’t a history book, this is something wholly interactive.
James Frey is undoubtedly a talented writer and you can feel it when you’re reading. He’s uncompromisingly truthful, honest, almost to the point where you feel you should sometimes cringe – especially when he tells his tearful parents over the phone he doesn’t want them anywhere near him. But this same honesty and truthfulness is laced with the dry wit of someone who’s been though a lot, making it truly funny while, at times, horribly disgusting.
He makes sparing use of chaptering, and doesn’t name parts of his book. In fact, he makes sparing use of just about everything except swearing, but I don’t really have a problem with that, and the constant references to drugs are, well, expected. It’s a drug rehab book. It’s not something you read for a laugh.