Wednesday, 9 February 2011

secret: on reading and writing and addiction

i've always lived in the presence of a lot of books. i used to read so much that at my little primary school, total student body 36, the librarian would check in with me when she bought new books because i'd read everything in our little school library.

once that happened, mum would take me into armidale, 50kms away, and let me run around the big city library borrowing books to my heart's content.

yeah, i was a nerd from the word 'go'. and you know what, i still am.

one of my all time favorite things to do with my ex was go used book shopping. it was like some sort of treasure hunt, finding a copy of something you'd always thought you should read (by this time, with his encouragement, i was not only a nerd, but a snobbish nerd at that) for $2.

in a crazy twist, i now work in a thrift store. so. i own a fuckload (it's a real amount; look it up) of books, most of which i have rescued from the recycling, where they were thrown by ignoramuses who have no idea that a bent cover does not make a classic novel trash!!! *cue hyperventilation*

i seem to have been picking books lately about addiction. maybe this is my subconscious telling me i have a problem. i read "in my skin" by kate holden, a melbourne girl who got addicted to heroin and worked in a brothel. the most surreal thing about the book was all the places she named- i lived in melbourne too, and know a lot of the spots kate mentioned in her book.

i just finished "dear diary" by leslie arfin, also an addict. she goes back through diary entries from throughout her life and tracks down lost loves, best friends she fell out with... she follows herself into her addictive spiral... it was originally a regular column in VICE magazine.

what i loved about both these books was their self-reflexivity as autobiographies. i'm curious about the way these particular recovering addicts describe their addictions: not apologetic, not evangelical, just sort of blunt and honest. the second book in particular was witty and charming. both girls had always planned to be writers too, derailed by what started off small and got out of control.

my question is, do you need to be an addict to be a good writer? what sort of life experience should a person have to be able to make fiction believable? there have been some crazy things happen to me in my life (uh, hello, schizophrenic christian boyfriend anyone?) but i was still tending towards feeling like i haven't got enough 'life experience' under my belt to feel confident as a writer... with those couple of books, i have to say, i guess i will draw the line at heroin.

seems wise.

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