I found this to be a troubling work. Yes, because it reveals the truly devastating passage of a teen addict, but also because it challenged me on an important respect – the thoroughly spoiled nature of the subject’s youth. Hanya Yanagihara’s ‘A little Life’ (a much longer epic work) troubled me as I reacted to the apparent repeated failure of its main character Jude to cease self-harming.
This shorter ‘memoir’ covers a much briefer period (from age 11 to 19) of an intensifying addiction to drugs (illegal and prescription) alcohol, promiscuity and prostitution then Lansky’s eventual sobriety (he is now 27). While I found a lot of it instructive in how he progressed and those around him who were engaging in similar, but not as intense, behaviour, I remained fixated on how he was surrounded by so much opportunity yet remained so focussed on his miseries and using them to justify his behaviour. I may be deeply unfair and I offer a lengthy interview with this charming young man to help you think about it. Go to
It is enough to say that the book is a description of an amazing amount of substance abuse started at an early age (his mother slipped in a Cocaine test before he was fourteen) which continued to intensify with time, opportunity and what Lansky sees at benign parent neglect. Locale was no impediment as he obtained what he wanted in Oregon or while living and attending prep school in central Manhattan, in college and in and out or rehab. What is of great interest to me is how he developed a detailed interest in prescription pharmaceuticals which he believed enabled him to get what he wanted with parental acceptance, medical collusion and a carefree attitude. He also was skilled in finding fellow users (often female but not always) with whom he could share, trade and use. Incidentally, the title refers to a gilded razor pendant he regularly used to cut and prepare cocaine.
Lansky says he came out to his parents at 11 and received acceptance (indifference?) from his parents and again I confess to some wonderment at what I have to perceive as some degree of precocity. He develops a preference for older men (40’ish with some degree of wealth, a good apartment and readily available drugs) and, until very late in his story, continues this preference with relatively few exceptions. Once again, while he has his explanations for this drugs–sexual preference nexus, the reader is left to ponder. I certainly did.
I found the writing style very good. The delivery and vocabulary just a bit more developed than matter-of-fact with occasional small explosions of descriptive colour that work well. It is easy to see why he has become successful in meeting, interviewing and writing up current social trend, personalities and activities. There are also lots of wry and off-handed shafts of humour (sometimes whistling in the dark) that point to the nature of the man as someone with whom you might like to meet and have a few drinks and a meal.
I can only say that this is a genuinely instructive piece that will have you looking acutely at more very young people and wondering about some of the individuals in our world who are handed a prescription pad and let loose. Reminder – have a listen to that interview referred to above.
find out how.