I don't know what it is about memoirs by addicts, but I can't ever seem to put them down. I'm nearing the end of Oran Canfield's Long Past Stopping, and I know that once I turn the last page I'm going to be jonesing for more. Oh, the irony.
There's something about people, real or imagined, who go through amazing arcs in their lives. Paths that start off down one road and end up turning left on holy-shit-how-did-I-get-here, turning right on relapse, then miraculously back to something livable.
People that can look back and say that they lived in their mistakes, in their choices, quite literally. For Oran it's a converted office space with boarded up windows, for Augusten Burroughs in Dry it's his Manhattan apartment overrun by fruitflies trying to lap up the remains within his discarded liquor bottles. The physical manifestation of hitting bottom...and then coming out the other side.
Even in fiction (see: She's Come Undone and Lullabies for Little Criminals), these are the people, the characters, that give us the critical sense of being awed by life. How it's never what you think it should be, but it's far more complex than you ever imagined.
As one lit critic put it: "The well-crafted memoir becomes the legacy that can change untold lives, in big and little ways. It can make another addict try recovery. Or, it can make a nonaddict develop compassion for those going through a hell they can never understand."
So I'm looking for my next memoir fix. Will it be Mary Karr's Lit, Caroline Knapp's Drinking: A Love Story, or Richard Farrell's What's Left of Us?
Filtered in amongst my chapters on Hypnobirthing and Heading Home With Your Newborn, of course. A girl has to have some variety.