Sunday, February 7, 2010

A place to belong II

So, how many demons from yr past do U carry around every day? & in what ways R they running -- & ruining -- yr life right now?
Nic Sheff's TWEAK (2007) covers about 2 yrs in the life of an early-20's methamphetamine addict who's bn abusing drugs since his mid-teens. Sheff relapses 2wice & recovers 2wice within the timespan of the book, & tho there's a muted hope 4 the future at the Nd, there R absolutely no guarantees. In fact, the Nding Cms kinda flat.
There is a brief 2-pg epilogue at the very Nd, written a yr after the rest of the book. At the closing of the main text, Sheff has recovered & Bcome sober at a rather oppressive & silly rehab somewhere in rural Arizona. Tho this rehab center has stupid rules that I think Sheff is justified in rebelling against, he slowly learns that the system works 4 him. The main text closes at a point of high drama & emotion, in which Nic's parents R finally willing 2 admit that they mighta had some role in turning Nic in2 the basket-case he has Bcome.
But in the epilogue, his parents Rn't even mentioned. A yr has passed & many other things have happened, but Nic's previous talk about planning 4 the future & what he's gonna do w/ his life is all dropped. The Nding Cms tacked-on, artificial, not at all "authentic," as Nic sez he's trying 2 B now. I can't Blieve either he or the publisher was happy w/ this Nding.
Up til the Nd the book is involving, gripping -- a clear Dpiction of massive, death-defying drug abuse written from the inside w/ nothing held back. 1 thing the book DOESN'T do is romanticize the addict's life. Nic spends mosta his time as an addict in drudgery -- trying 2 score, shooting up, worrying about $$$, blowing $2K on drugs in less than 2 wks, stealing from his parents, relatives' & friends' houses, trying 2 find more connections 4 more drugs....
In 300 pgs, Sheff abuses meth, cocaine, heroin, smokes pot, takes lotsa pills -- U name it, he gives it a shot. & there R hints about more Xtreme Bhavior in his past, mosta which is revealed thru flashbacks, including a period when he lived on the street & sold his body 2 men 4 more drugs.
There is an amazing amount of graphic Dtail in the book -- not just surrounding the drug abuse, but also the sometimes-frantic sex apparently Ngaged-in in an attempt 2 make SOME kinda meaningful connection w/ some1 -- so much that I'm suprised the book was marketed 4 an audience age 15 and older. But Nic sez he had his 1st sexual relationship at age 12, so mayB I'm Bhind the times.
There R horrors here that R Byond Dscription, Xamples of drug-induced psychosis that will give U the chills -- as in Nic's complete mental breakdown in his mother's garage, where he Nds up lurking 4 hrs until his mom & the police arrive....
Then there's Nic's dream-girl girlfriend, who's in even worse shape than Nic is, & who -- at a point of great stress when it Bcomes obvious that she's bn using 4 mo's & Nic hasn't noticed -- triggers Nic's relapse & a headlong plunge in2 his worst addiction-binge yet.
But all thru this book Nic talks about things I had no trouble relating 2 -- his constant racing thots, his inability 2 do NE job no matter how meaningless w/o giving Absolutely Everything He Has 2 it, his constant drive 2 B accepted & liked by every1, his inability 2 get along w/ his parents & keep from causing them pain, his separation anxiety stemming from his parents splitting-up when he was young....
Tho I don't think the Nding is 2 "authentic" -- I always want 2 know MORE at times like those -- this is the best Dpiction of drug use written from the inside that I've read. It ain't Xactly Njoyable, but it is ... addictive....

2 comments:

rastronomicals said...

I've not read Nic Sheff, but your description of Tweak, in its portrayal of drug use and those on the fringes, in its graphicness and though you didn't use the word what I imagine as its bleakness, I am reminded of a remarkable novel by Andrew Vachss with the name of Shella.

In that book, too, the demons of the past are so powerful that they overwhelm anything to do with the present. Nothing about Shella, though, is unsatisfying. If Tweak ends with a sort of muted hope, Shella ends without any hope at all. There never really was any hope for the title character; the book cycles through and finds its ending and its unification simply in the confirmation of it. Yet somehow, even though you always knew it was coming, Vachss' ending is the goddamned saddest thing you've ever felt.

As well as being one of the greatest books I've ever read, it is without a doubt, the saddest. But it's a sadness that is never for even one moment sentimental.

I can't recommend Vachss' other work. He's really not even a writer, he's a counsellor who writes books to fund the help he tries to give, and from what I've read of his other books, while depicting some hair-raising stuff, they somehow do not resonate emotionally with you the way that Shella does. But with Shella at least, he got it all right, and I recommend it to you, given that you enjoyed Tweak.

tad said...

Thanx, R. I've heard of Andrew Vachss's name somewhere B4....
I didn't think TWEAK was bleak, tho it DEFinitely was gray & ... pretty grimy, in some places. I shoulda noted in the review that Sheff throws away a LOT of chances in the book -- his parents bail him outta trouble 1/2adozen times B4 they give up; he has a dream job working w/ a bunch of beautiful, friendly, supportive women at a beauty salon; he reviews movies 4 an Internet magazine; he meets a lot of people & lives what many of us would probly consider a Pretty Good Life -- & he throws it all away 4 the drugz. I liked the book, I just wish the Nding had bn more solid.
& tho I'm not looking 4 NE reasons 2 get Dpressed, it sounds like I needta look in2 Andrew Vachss.... -- TAD.