Thursday, June 3, 2010

Addict Lit--Crack From Clegg and Good Old Alcohol for Huneven

L., one of our good second-hand customers came in over the weekend. She mostly shops another place (unnamed), but she likes to trade in with us for credit. (Yes, we buy second-hand books for credit. Call us at 414-332-1181 to let us know when you'd like to come in) The thing was, she knew exactly what she wanted to use the credit for, Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, and our copies hadn't come in yet.

It's the story of a literary agent who hits bottom on a crack addiction, and her enthusiasm led me to read an advance copy of the book myself. I had been toying with it, particularly as my editor friend David highly recommended it. The publisher's packaging reminded me of Nick Flynn's Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City, which I read several years ago. I seem to remember that fragmentary style has some similarity, the parental issues, the drugs. And look at how similar the jackets are!

Clegg jumps around, circling his final meltdown with stories from his childhood (and a psychological problem that went ignored by his family), his teenage welcomes to alcohol and drugs, his rise as an agent, the secrets the permeate his life. I had a lot of sympathy for his boyfriend Noah, but as the story continues, I realized how complicit he was in the addiction and the secrets, starting with how they made up a story about how they met. I guess phone sex line didn't go well with friends. Maybe not a bad idea, but those secrets led to Noah agreeing to serially forget about Bill's drug relapses.

It's one of those punch-in-the-face books that offer a special kind of reading experience. I didn't know why I was reading it, I felt a little dirty, and I couldn't stop. And yet not trashy--that's quite the balancing act.

Here's Clegg's profile in the New York Times that compelled our customer to rush right over and get a copy.

Speaking of addiction, how can I not mention that Michelle Huneven's breathtaking Blame is out in paperback. I'd say finally, but it's been less than a year and I only say finally when it's more than a year. As in, Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers is finally coming out in paperback this fall. And it is.

Huneven's novel is one of the best renderings of recovery that I've read, fictional or true. Patsy McLemoore is first shown through the eyes of her boyfriend's young cousin (family friend? who can remember?), a falling-down mess. Oh, that ear-piercing scene!

Her path to sobirety is laced with darkness and humor and filled with side characters so rich they threaten to take over the novel. We had a very nice first week of sale on the book. Thank you reviewers and NBCC and all the authors (like Sue Miller) and readers who've been singing the book's praises.

I convinced L. to read this until she came back for the Clegg. Hope my suggestion clicked!

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