Book review: The Adderall Diaries by Steven Elliott

| Posted by Bel | The time is 11.37am here in Wellington NZ |

I'm going to blog soon with an update about The List and my abandonment of it and what my new reading project has been (for most of the year), honest. But in the meantime, here's a teeny-tiny review.

Lou and I are both fans of James Franco. If you actually went and watched that NY Times slideshow of actors acting I blogged about earlier, you would have seen the weirdly erotic film of him seducing himself. Being as well as being hot sauce, Franco is a talented actor who chooses interesting projects. Bit of installation art here, some Broadway rumours there, signed to host the Oscars over there - and his films vary from challenging and critically credible, to, um, dumb.

The Adderall Diaries came to my attention after I read that Franco had optioned the book to direct, also planning to write the script and potentially star. The author of this memoir, Steven Elliott, runs the website The Rumpus where you can read his short story, Where I Slept. (Seriously, go read this, it's pretty amazing.)

Intrigued and on a year-long bender of memoirs and autobiographies, I grabbed the book from my beloved Wellington Central Library. It was the exact same cover as pictured here! Should have got a real life pic, especially as I am rocking some glitter nail polish. Yes, I succumbed.

The writing is raw and confessional but still poetic, in the vein of Dave Eggers but without the distraction of his memoir's structural quirks and linguistic acrobatics. Chuck Palahniuk also comes to mind, though there is a relatable aspect to Elliott's writing which I've always found lacking even in books such as his Stranger Than Fiction.

The storyline weaves together what is a relatively simple murder case complicated by an unsolicited confession of guilt to other murders by a connected party, with Steven's own knowledge that his father may have killed someone when he was younger. The themes of deception and self-deception become entwined with his attempts to overcome writer's block and his self-imposed drifting in life.

A confronting aspect of The Adderall Diaries is the way Steven's sexual relationships and encounters are presented. His involvement in the S&M world means that sexual pleasure is interwoven with violence, a concept which can be hard to reconcile. There are graphic descriptions, not just of the surroundings of bondage dungeons that he visits, but of the way he feels during the experience. This can actually be revelatory, especially later in the book when he talks about the joy of feeling pain in this context as being a refuge from the terrors of his younger years.

(PS yes there were moments when I went "Oh lordy, Franco, really?!" at the thought of how sequences of the book would play out on the big screen.)

Summary: The Adderall Diaries by Steven Elliott gets a THUMBS UP and a recommendation if you are into reading about kinky stuff or true crime.

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