Thursday, 29 September 2011

Solo book club

I picked up a copy of Tweak by Nic Sheff in a hostel in Bangkok and quickly finished it within a few hours, thanks to the author's hyperactive writing style which makes it an easy one to speed through. A memoir of Sheff's "life growing up on methamphetamines", it falls squarely into the genre of addiction memoir, although he is careful to pop a disclaimer at the beginning stating that some characters and events have been changed so as to avoid offense or breach personal privacy.

Yeah, right. This is what annoys me about these books. If an author is going to lay bare the horrors of addiction and make money from telling people about how they went through hell purely by making bad choices, they need to be upfront about the whole lot and not make edits here and there in order to make the story more interesting. It's patronising and risky, because once a reader's belief in the subject matter is suspended too far, it's hard to give any weight to the true parts of the story. What's more, certain authors have only started doing this since James Frey, who won praise and, soon afterwards, scorn for his book A Million Little Pieces (and even then it was only because Oprah found out a chunk of the "autobiography" was completely made up) was made a literary laughing stock and now churns out garbage like I Am Number Four through a weird writing house/pseudo book-writing collective (apparently). Side note: I've still not watched the entire movie adaptation of I Am Number Four. Is it worth giving it another go?

Anyway, Tweak is very Frey-esque, in that he seems desperate to show his readers how screwed up his life was and the depths he would sink to in order to get the next hit. The difference is that Sheff makes no excuses for his behaviour, nor attempts to examine the cause of such intense and debilitating addiction. He also relapses again and again even after the book ends; a fact the reader is encouraged to discover via the author's somewhat pretentious blog. A little more Googling led me to discover that not only is Sheff's dad a much-acclaimed journalist, but has also written a book about his son's problems, entitled Beautiful Boy. So I start to wonder; is the publication of Tweak down to nepotism, or would it have been strong enough to stand alone? I highly doubt it.


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