Caleb J. Ross' booklikes

The official booklikes blog of author Caleb J. Ross.

The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder

The Adderall Diaries - Stephen Elliott (this review originally appeared at WelcomeToTheVelvet [dot:] com)Enticed by the hook of a true crime story involving Hans Reiser’s marital crimes and eight unrelated murders, The Adderall Diaries author Stephen Elliott instead discovers a vehicle by which to organize and understand his own disjointed life. “Hans waits in his cell, thinking through his defense like a puzzle,” Elliott says late in the book, ”which once solved will set him free. I’m thinking through my own” (pg 145).What makes this process of discovery especially engaging is the apparent futility of Elliott’s journey. Just as Reiser’s guilt permeates even the opening pages of the book (one of the first mentions of Hans regards his apparent knowledge of the aforementioned eight unrelated murders), Elliott’s uphill plight is evident immediately. But we keep reading, partly because Elliott’s tortured life invites the morbid voyeur in all of us, but mostly for something else: despite his downward spiral, the reader understands and empathizes with the author’s passion for life. Elliott may admit that he does not immediately grasp the purpose of his writing. . .For a moment I thought I knew the narrative. But I don’t. I never do. I’ve had too many false starts. I can see it in my own writing, this book functioning as an external memory I go over every day (pg 102).. . . but the reader is convinced, even if Elliott seems not to be, that more than a simple diary, The Adderall Diaries stands as a goldmine of anecdotal been-there, done-thats implying tangential hope.In many ways this memoir celebrates the form with overt adherence to so many of its conventions (unimportance of narrative arc, constant self-reflection, addressing the reader as though they share a psychiatrist’s office), but never are we forced to be a part of senseless self-loathing and overt sensationalism. This latter observation is made apparent by the many asides that are discarded so easily. Elliott opts not to dwell on the unnecessary, despite any inherent intrigue. For example, a single line on page 27 both introduces and dismisses Elliott’s time spent stealing Leonard DiCaprio’s fan mail for use as Christmas gifts. Similarly, only a quick paragraph mentions a time he slept at a truck driver’s spare bedroom where “a wooden cross with eyebolts and leather shackles [were:] drilled into the wall” (pg 88). Of course we want to know more about these events, but Elliott knows they are only worth a quick mention as it relates to The Adderall Diaries proper. One must respect him for this.The disjointed, vignette-heavy style reflects the chaos of the author’s life, proving Elliott’s understanding of the novel-length form. Already known for his previous novels (including Happy Baby and What It Means to Love You), various editorial work (most recently as founder of and writing in Esquire, The New York Times, and GQ, The Adderall Diaries adds a strong sense of credibility to a man’s work that has often dwelled in society’s marginal and misunderstood underground.(Note: this review quotes from an Uncorrected Proof version of The Adderall Diaries)