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5.0 out of 5 stars A marvellous debut, 25 April 2013
This review is from: Erin (Kindle Edition)
Rob Dickins is well known as a guru of psychedelia and an avid participant in the British festival scene and here, in his first novella, he blends the two ingredients in a startlingly original and creative fusion. Erin takes place over the span of the Solpsycle Gathering; a medium-scale festival with a strong New Age ambience. Lije - `a schizophrenic...a journalist [and] a druggie' - and his group of mates move somnambulantly through festy space-time, bearing the chaotic, fractured perceptions of non-stop partying. Enter the beautiful and enigmatic Erin, who manifests to Lije as a psychonautic guide, leading him through extravagant mushroom and salvia trips in an odyssey of self discovery.

At first Lije is entranced: `A flower appeared before my eyes and began to blossom. It blossomed in fractals, geometrically, as petals beget petals beget petals beget petals; the slow turn of a planetary arc. Reds, blues and greens, organic tendrils that spread outwards at a speed unfathomable to my frozen awareness.' But the path is a tricky one and, deeper into the trip, an insidious spirit appears who lures Lije into bad places. For indeed, beneath it all, a dreadful truth lurks, and somehow Lije must come to terms with it.

The word paintings of altered states are right up there with the best and Rob's freeform, lyrical style ideally suits the nature of such experience. He's particularly good on the fast-shifting and overlapping effects of multiple substance use, with mushrooms, MDMA, LSD and salvia all playing a part, and not forgetting spliffs and cider! The rushes, the exuberant highs and the sudden nosedives into paranoia all surge through the reader in a dizzying accelerated compression. And the various textures of festival life, with the mud, the discomfort, the sometimes bullying guards and the music, which `shimmered into fractals that danced around my eyes' are all superbly rendered.

Erin then is no mere documentary record but a sophisticated multi-levelled psychodrama, where Lije's battles with his inner demons, set against the richly hallucinated backdrop of Solpsycle, come to resemble some fin de siècle Technicolor Greek myth. It's a psy-novel for the high-tech age, in which the wide array of substances available and the composite polymorphous nature of their effects reflect our zeitgeist, just as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas encapsulated the souring of the hippy dream back in the early 1970s. Erin is a marvellous debut, and a book that anyone who wants to sample a slice of today's psychedelic culture should read.

Albion Dreaming: A popular history of LSD in Britain
Albion Dreaming: A popular history of LSD in Britain
by Andy Roberts
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dream of a Trip!, 9 Feb. 2012
With great enthusiasm and obvious love for the subject matter, Albion Dreaming relates the specifics of how LSD tripped out British culture--a story as least as interesting as its American counterpart, featured in works such as Storming Heaven and Acid Dreams. Many intriguing threads are woven together, from early military experiments in the '50s at the infamous Porton Down chemical weapons facility, where unwitting volunteer servicemen `were expected to hallucinate for Queen and country'; to early examples of LSD psychotherapy, involving famous figures such as the comedian Frankie Howerd and actor Sean Connery; to the more familiar `swinging '60s', the free festival movement and beyond.

Roberts charts the influence of acid on the '60s music scene, which gave us the Beatles' celebrated Sgt. Pepper album and launched the mighty Pink Floyd at the UFO club in London, as well as many other acts, including the Moody Blues, the Small Faces, Donovan, the Move and the Incredible String Band. As more and more psychedelic lyrics began to seep into the zeitgeist, the BBC banned certain tracks and newspapers such as the News of the World ran exposes on these so-called corrupting and decadent bands, which turned out to be laughably self-defeating:

`By explaining exactly what LSD was, its cost and its effects News of the World gave thousands of teenagers a glimpse into a way of life they desperately wanted to be part of... To an extent the unwitting media promotion of LSD led to thousands of young people throughout Britain becoming more knowledgeable about the drug than they would otherwise have been.'

Albion Dreaming also gets behind the scenes and documents some of the less well-known LSD movers and shakers: evangelists such as Michael Hollingshead, who first turned Timothy Leary onto LSD and founded the World Psychedelic Centre in Chelsea; chemists such as Victor Kapur, one of the first to make blotter acid in bulk in the late '60s; and writers such as John Michell, whose mystical ideas popularised Glastonbury and paved the way for the first free festival there in 1970. There are also many testimonies from ordinary people, `vox pops' one could say, which illuminate how LSD culture inexorably blossomed throughout this period, leading to changes in lifestyle, fashion and prevailing political, social and religious attitudes.

With the '70s underway and the free festival and travelling hippy scenes well established, Andy Roberts then turns his attention to `Operation Julie', a phrase that has come to have a legendary ring for '70s acidheads, and now refers not only to the largest drug squad operation in British history but also generically to everything concerning the massive LSD manufacturing ring that was its target. Chemist Richard Kemp was another evangelist who wanted to cause an acid revolution, and in this respect he made sure each of his microdots contained `a minimum of 200 Ķg. to ensure the customer had a guaranteed full-blown psychedelic experience.' This acid was some of the strongest ever marketed and the Julie gang produced millions of tabs, almost single-handedly keeping '70s Britain high--and exporting as well--until they were busted in 1977.

As Roberts says about the gang's legacy: `It certainly wasn't a public revolution. The changes in worldview their LSD brought to countless thousands of people have had a more subtle effect in society. There are now people in their fifties and sixties who occupy key roles in industry, science, the armed forces, the police, and numerous authors, who have taken their Operation Julie vision into the heart of the establishment and tried to change things from the inside.'

Though enthusiastic about LSD himself, Andy Roberts makes us aware of the drug's ambivalent nature and propensity to cause mental mayhem--`the lysergic long dark night of the soul.' He cites famous acid casualties, such as original Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett, who burnt himself out on the drug; then there were the unfortunate victims of the early government experiments, some of whom have now received compensation; and those who had bad trips and `freaked out', due to a mixture of factors such as overdose, ignorance of the laws of set and setting or poor psychic predisposition; though he stresses that such negative reactions are generally in the minority.

Overall Albion Dreaming is a well-researched and well-rounded account of the transformative power of that most singular of chemicals on individuals and a whole nation, demonstrating the myriad worldview changes that have rippled out of the synapses of those involved and spread far and wide. Andy Roberts' combined journalistic and storytelling skills make for a colourful zesty read, a vivid exploration of that `Disneyland of the mind' and required reading for anyone interested in the synergy between acid and British culture--or in acid period.

by William J. Booker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Freakdom, 9 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Trippers (Paperback)
It's the summer of 1971 and an eighteen-year-old Bill Booker has reached an important developmental point. With a childhood lacking in self-confidence behind him, he's branching out, finding new friends, thinking about purposeful journeys and being lured by the exciting scent of changing times. There's a host of new music to dig, from serious cred stuff such as the Floyd and Syd Barrett, King Crimson, Cream and Beefheart, to the more middling cred ELP and Hawkwind, to the downright lightweight, such as the Osmonds. When it comes to reading material there's Hesse, Heinlein and Jung, International Times and Oz, the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and Mr Natural...all of it imbibed through `a scented blue haze of joss and marijuana smoke.'

Bill and his gang see themselves as `Freaks' with a capital F--a new incarnation of youth culture at the start of a new decade--and one Saturday the group identity gets expanded to `The Semi-Secret Fellowship of Freaks'. With suitably raised consciousness, Bill attempts to define his goals. `I wanted to be creative. I wanted spiritual enlightenment, although I only had a vague idea of what that meant. I wanted a girlfriend. I wanted true love. I wanted to be wise, joyful and fulfilled. I wanted to always know that life was meaningful. I wanted to know that there were mysteries to contemplate.'

One might well ask what is the difference between Freaks and good old hippies? As they both tick so many of the same boxes--long hair, alternative dress and lifestyles, anti-establishment, mystically orientated, into dope and acid, listen to Pink Floyd--it's hard to get so much as a tissue paper between them. Yet early in the 1970s there's already a sense that being a hippy is a bit old hat, you know man, so '60s, and now we're in a bright new decade with bright new decimal currency replacing that old £.s.d. (not LSD!) and we need to carve out a fresh identity. Being a Freak then is a reaction against the perceived countercultural conformity of hippiedom--Freaks are a bit rawer, edgier and less pretentious.

There is also the parallel to the aforementioned comic book characters, the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, created by Gilbert Shelton. In one scene the quartet of friends assign the identities of the Brothers to one another, with Jake becoming Freewheelin' Franklin; Bill, as the clever one, becoming Phineas; Syd, as the least skinny, becoming Fat Freddy; and resident misanthrope Ray settling for Fat Freddy's Cat.

But of course it hardly matters what they call themselves; be it angry young men, beats, mods, rockers, hippies, freaks, bikers, greasers, punks, new romantics or whatever; the point is that each successive manifestation owns the stage for a limited, ephemeral period--that magic time after the final sandbags of childhood have been thrown overboard and before the claims of adult responsibility start to bring the balloon back down and the next generation take over the spotlight.

As for LSD (not £.s.d.!) that plays a pivotal role in the proceedings, and our Freaks, naturally, are also Trippers, as the book's admirably straightforward title suggests. And Bill's trip descriptions are right up there with the best. In one session he's sprawled out on the sofa, going up and reaching the end of the first transformative hour, and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn is on the turntable. `I'm grinning the Grin of Madness; my face stretched wider and wider, the corners of my mouth pulling away in opposite directions until my grin encompasses the universe. Habitual thoughts fall away like dry scabs. My mind is borne into clear, cool space. It is a clean page upon which each experience is imprinted with icy crispness. With the eyes of my soul I stare into the maelstrom of possibilities that is Existence--and grin.'

The familiar twists and turns of the ride that is the acid trip are put across marvellously in several accounts throughout the book. Walls perform deep breathing exercises; a carpet becomes a seething mattress of giant frogspawn; strange `entities' and apparitions are mutually sighted, such as pair of figures in a churchyard who disappear on closer inspection. Then there's the problem of tripping in pubs--thinking people are watching you, so you look to see if they are and they return the looks, locking in the dreadful self-fulfilling loop of paranoia. Yes, we've all been there. But as a counterbalance there's the magic of outdoor night tripping, a Lord of the Rings-style adventure with a conjectured soundtrack of early Floyd and Hawkwind. `Under the ribcage arches of laneside trees we walk, zigzagging, amid green-purple meshes spiralling from clumps of foliage to the earth, like animated three-dimensional wallpaper patterns, or what wallpaper patterns seem to aspire to but never attain.'

The bulk of the summer's adventures involve a low-budget trip from hometown Leicester to Weymouth, hitchhiking, sleeping rough and camping in true Kerouac `bumming around' style. Long distance hitchhiking is now a rarity, an anachronism, but in those days everyone indulged; and its precariousness and unreliability as a mode of transport are well captured. Fruitless overheated hours on the roadside are punctuated by `stupidly grinning prats in suits who shouted some unintelligible insults at us, swerving towards us and away at the last instant before gunning their motor off down the road.' After a night on a footpath, yielding an insect-bitten face, Bill and his mates are rejected from a campsite for their freaky appearance, and they eventually find an out-of-town site, involving long commutes. But none of it dampens their spirits, and they revel in the simple things, such as the coastal atmosphere, pints of bitter and their relentlessly unvarying diet of egg and chips, which makes one fear for the lack of roughage in their diet and their cholesterol levels. Such is the solipsism of Trippers, egg and chips becomes the best possible meal in the entire world...and why not?

A fortuitous encounter with another Freak in Weymouth leads to a party invite in Leamington Spa, and here Bill gets involved with a new set, some more acid and has a brief affair, all simultaneously, with pyrotechnic results. `Each thrust into Nell ignites a blast of brilliant light through my body, releasing a flood of spectral images in my head. I'm rushing through a tunnel of trees towards a castle gateway with delicate tracery cut into its stonework and lit from within by a thousand glimmering oil lamps. I'm flying through the castle gateway into a corridor where light from dozens of chandeliers sparkles from prisms of crystal, on into cloisters lined with gothic arches rich in erotic scenes...onward through aisles, passages, gangways and tunnels without end.'

But there's a downside too, and one of Bill's mates, having had too much possibly adulterated acid, ends up in the local nuthouse. This scene and several others make you aware of how much the world has changed in forty years. Back then the mere fact of long hair marked you out as a renegade, a waster, and was sufficient in itself to induce gangs of skinheads to throw bricks at you. And in the world of Cuckoo's Nest psychiatry, acid was considered on par with heroin as addictive, and part of the `cure' for acid psychosis involved an enforced haircut that left the hapless victim looking, according to one mate, like Joan of Arc. What a telling comparison!

Trippers ends with some philosophical ruminations--`The Grail is the meeting place where the light of understanding and the light at the heart of manifestation are one'--and as the narrative fades to black, we're left to wonder about the rest of Bill's life. That's the beauty of selection by book-ending, presenting a chosen vivid slice of life to synecdochically represent the whole. Ultimately Trippers is about the small writ large, the accumulation of much diverse detail to make the past live again in thrumming eidetic vibrancy. Like the best of those '70s album covers whose designs leap out at you, at once specific to a milieu yet archetypal, the adventures of Bill and his mates celebrate both idiosyncrasy and commonality. Four decades on those happenings have matured like good port, and the taste is sweet to those who've trod similar paths and no doubt to those who maybe wished they had.

To Live Outside the Law: Caught by Operation Julie, Britain's Biggest Drugs Bust
To Live Outside the Law: Caught by Operation Julie, Britain's Biggest Drugs Bust
by Leaf Fielding
Edition: Paperback

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Seven Ages of an Acid Idealist, 30 Aug. 2011
This is a book of many facets: part personal memoir of the '60s-'70s psychedelic scene, part `true crime'-style insider account of the Operation Julie escapade, subsequent bust and jail time, and also a larger meditation on the cultural and spiritual impact on humanity of that most potent and exotic of illegal substances--LSD.

It is tightly and economically written, telling us enough but without going into burgeoning detail, so that a large swathe of time is covered efficiently in its near 300 pages. The structure takes the time-honoured form of two interwoven strands, the first starting with the Julie bust and continuing on through the legal proceeding and imprisonment, and the second dealing with Leaf's past life up to the bust. It works very well, with the unrelenting downbeat dourness of the former strand contrasting strikingly with the colour of the latter; and the two synergise together beautifully to answer the book's central question, poised on its cover: How did I get into this mess?

The answer is complicated, but the honest and candid writing, coupled with the willingness to reveal intimate details, build into a lucid and fascinating portrait of a talented individual whose youthful waywardness and `rebellion' ultimately stretched too far for his own good. The roots, as ever, lie in childhood, and Leaf's, though middle class and not `deprived' in the usual sense, had huge shortcomings. From the age of seven onwards, with an army officer father often serving overseas and no mother, Leaf had virtually no proper family life and was subject to the institutionalised sadism of boarding school, where he didn't fit in. What with having to fight the school bully to prove himself, enduring vicious canings from the headmaster and slipperings from prefects for the most trivial of `offences', he became radicalised early. Through George Orwell he got interested in the Spanish Civil War and developed an anti-fascist stance that both alienated him at school but secured him a place at Reading University.

By now it was 1966, the dawn of the hippy era, and in more congenial surroundings, Leaf made new friends and had an early taste of acid, which proved a highly positive life-changing experience. In the trip account, he doesn't indulge in protracted descriptions of way-out visuals, but instead concentrates on the sense of existential transformation: `I was a human archetype, making every journey of exploration that every man has ever made for as long as we've been walking the earth. I watched myself moving forward, assessing danger, looking for opportunity, alert to the possibility of treasure. With an instant change of perspective, I saw myself leaning out of my narrow window of consciousness and scanning the wide horizons, observing the very processes of existence unfolding.'

Interestingly there was also a spontaneous psychotherapeutic element to this first trip, with Leaf able to plumb some of the painful issues of his childhood and reach a catharsis. Now fired with purpose and the belief that acid could change humanity, Leaf and his friend Jack became proselytisers, turning on as many people as were willing and going full swing into the '67 Summer of Love. Leaf didn't even bother to turn up for his exams, rationalising that `dropping out' was the higher and nobler thing to do. Yet interestingly the text invites us to read between the lines and perhaps conclude that the decision had as much to do with economics as idealism, and the act was as much a rebellion against an unsatisfactory upbringing as a `political' act against `society'. Leaf's father's upright military bearing and his insistence on conducting himself according to a rigid set of rules led to considerable pusillanimity in his role as a parent. One example of this was his refusal to pay his parental contribution towards Leaf's student grant, making university life far less tenable than it might have been. Ironically in those days students from low-income backgrounds were often better off, as they received the full grant automatically and were free from the scourge of parental tyranny. Poverty stricken, Leaf at first had to resort to gambling to make ends meet, and later, as his immersement in the growing alternative society became more complete, he financed himself through drug dealing and trafficking.

With picaresque tales of hitchhiking, partying and dope running in Europe, Turkey, Morocco and Thailand, To Live Outside the Law starts to resemble Howard Marks' Mr Nice in giving an uplifting sense of the wide-open frontiers of the dope trade in those earlier halcyon days. Like Howard, Leaf rose steadily through the ranks of the trafficking `industry' to a position of importance, and similarly eschewed dealing in `hard' drugs, staying with the more ethical psychedelically oriented fare. Back in England, he became a key member of the outfit that manufactured and supplied millions of doses of acid in the '70s--including my own first trip--leading eventually to the Julie debacle: that most horrendous collision of hippy idealism and law enforcement overkill. By that time Leaf had settled down, was married and involved in a successful wholefoods business. His view of acid had become somewhat tempered, and he no longer retained the youthful, Learyesque belief that it could transform the world:

`...taking a drug that expands your consciousness doesn't, in itself, change your life. You come back to your everyday reality... A glimpse of heaven can be inspiring, but when it contrasts so strongly with your life it can also be dispiriting. And it's no good taking more mind-expanding stuff to lift you above the fray, because acid operates on the law of diminishing marginal utility: the more you take, the less it does.'

And if the rose tint had faded somewhat from the vision, the reality of Leaf's role as the link man between manufacturers and dealers, carrying around 50 or 100,000 tabs at a time, was hardly much fun either, producing jitters, paranoia and eerie precognitive nightmares. The actual bust and the static horror of living through interrogation, remand, trial and a lengthy stretch inside are conveyed with a sobering immediacy, stripped of any false bravado or the kind of defiance a real criminal might display. As Leaf tells it, there was also a surreal element to the treatment the gang received, with Sweeney-style cops with guns escorting them whenever they were at large and rooftop marksmen at the court proceedings. `Who did they think was going to come and save me--the acid army?'

Tellingly Leaf quotes Evelyn Waugh, who said, `Anyone who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in prison.' And the two have striking similarities--a life of day-by-day survival, flying by the seat of one's pants, `putting up with unpleasant company and disagreeable surroundings.' Having to sew mailbags whilst listening to the continual dirge of `Mull of Kintyre' is about as bad as it gets! In a conversation with the acid chemist Richard Kemp, both men agreed that their sense of being on a mission had done them a fat lot of good from the perspective of inside prison walls.

Overall the account comes over as an especially extreme version of the crash of the hippy dream; yet the indomitability of Leaf's spirit and the survival of his core beliefs and attitudes is inspiring indeed. What makes To Live Outside the Law an excellent work is the way Leaf succeeds in conveying his shifting points of view in a kind of `Seven Ages of an Acid Idealist' fashion, so that we get the frank and honest fruits of his experience and not some loaded piece of propaganda or regilded tale of romanticised outlawhood. It is a great read--an entertaining peculiarly British nostalgia-trip page-turner and an invaluable addition to the canon of acid literature.

Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
by Philip Larkin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £22.12

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost an Autobiography, 20 April 2011
This marvellous book is the closest we'll ever get to an autobiography of Larkin, and is fitting consolation for those infamous diaries that he had burned, the contents of which will forever remain a mystery. Actually he mentions the diaries and his intention to eventually have them burned quite early on in these letters; and he forbids Monica from staying at his flat in Hull, when he was ill in hospital, out of fear that she may read them.

There are many such intriguing details in these letters that will delight Larkin fans, as here we get the real man, off guard and speaking his true mind, in a way that he would only do to the love of his life. The story of the relationship runs alongside that of Larkin's rise to fame, and of the latter he is typically self-deprecating about his substantial achievements. Of the former, it is all a touch poignant and sad. After Larkin's retreat to Belfast, he gets the top job in Hull, and here is the ideal point for him and Monica to get together, to marry. He has plenty of money and could easily support the both of them, but he wriggles on the hook for too long and the moment is lost. Later when details of his dalliances with other women--notably Maeve--emerge, he is effusively apologetic to the distraught Monica, but he cannot help but go on living his double life with minimum ties, in order to maintain the right existential conditions for his writing.

We know this story from the Motion biography, but through these letters it comes over more profoundly, from the man himself. Comparing the two books yields some striking insights, such as the intimate writing to Monica on his 50th birthday, followed by drinking champagne with Maeve in his flat afterwards. Larkin urged Monica to burn his letters, but happily this remarkable archive survived to cast another unique light on his sadness and genius.

My Friend Leonard
My Friend Leonard
by James Frey
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another most moving story, 10 May 2010
This review is from: My Friend Leonard (Paperback)
As a sequel to A Million Little Pieces, I wondered if this would have anything worthwhile to say or whether it would prove to be just a limp attempt to cash in on the success of its predecessor. After a slowish start, it certainly did find its feet and developed into another most moving story.

Leonard is a superb character; you couldn't make him up from scratch yet he feels like a fictional creation. Ex-cocaine addict and alcoholic, ultra-rich criminal mastermind, art connoisseur, bon viveur and self-appointed adoptive father to James, he is very much larger than life. In this role, he pops into James' life, taking him out for lavish meals and dispensing good-natured fatherly wisdom. Meanwhile, James struggles with the inevitable flatness of post-addiction life, drifting through jobs and relationships whilst he finds his feet as a writer. Although the denouement is spoiled somewhat by A Million Little Pieces, there is a twist in the tail and another neat - quite novelistic - conclusion.

The prose style is spare, almost journal-like, but the book still retains a novel-like feel. After the controversy surrounding the made-up bits in A Million Little Pieces, one wonders how much is true and how much is made-up in My Friend Leonard; but if anything that increases its appeal as a read. Now we are in the era of the 'fake memoir': a 'true' story with fictionalised bits; but in former times we had the roman à clef: a 'novel' based on real life. Ultimately, is there really any difference? Is it a good read? - that's what matters. And with My Friend Leonard the answer is yes.

Truant: Notes from the Slippery Slope
Truant: Notes from the Slippery Slope
by Horatio Clare
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Palace of Wisdom?, 10 May 2010
Horatio Clare's second memoir is a trip along the Blakeian 'road to excess', involving wide-ranging substance abuse and attendant behavioural and mental problems, finally reaching the redemptive 'palace of wisdom'. It is self-consciously literary and indeed well written, capturing the mood of '90s grunge-era, live-for-the-moment fecklessness that echoes the romantic, beat and hippy lifestyles. Truant contains effective thumbnail sketches of the effects of drugs, depression, mania and that uniquely liberated tramp's eye perspective of the world, when there's nothing left to lose. Along the way there are glimpses of many disparate worlds - public school, a provincial newspaper office, a rough London pub, and various shabby and chaotic living quarters - as Clare continues his madcap journey, involving brushes with the law and the burning of bridges in jobs and relationships.

As the story progresses, it becomes more 'psychoanalytical', taking into account causative factors, which include a troubled family background, Clare's increasingly evident bipolar disorder and, of course, the cumulative effect of the various drugs he's taken. Here he recounts some vivid and disturbing imagery from LSD trips, mentions heroin in passing and also ecstasy, though he has little to say about this, the big drug of that particular era. Instead it is cannabis that dominates his narcotic life, and Clare talks of his addiction and fatal attraction to the substance, singling it out as the primary exacerbating factor in his condition. His earlier accounts of dabblings are light-hearted and typical of those of the average user, but as his bipolar disorder consolidates and he graduates onto the more potent skunk variety, all becomes darker, and he enters a twilight world, paranoid about seeking help from the psychiatric profession and also about pharmaceutical drugs, and soldiering on alone until the inevitable low point is reached.

As an addiction memoir Truant is interesting in that it cites cannabis as the problem substance - rather than heroin, cocaine or alcohol - and so resonates with the current debate about 'cannabis psychosis' and more general health issues resulting from use of the drug. It is honest, unsparing and sometimes harrowing in its revelations, but then the writing itself, in the confessional tradition, has had an evident cathartic function for Clare, and one ends up wishing him well and hoping all that 'reefer madness' is truly behind him.

My Booky Wook
My Booky Wook
by Russell Brand
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No-holds-barred piece of self-revelation, 10 May 2010
This review is from: My Booky Wook (Paperback)
There's nothing that makes genuine writers want to throw up more than ghost-written celebrity memoirs and novels, clogging up the bookshops and bestseller lists and putting their more worthy fare in the shadows. So my 'disclaimer' for reading this book is that it was bought for me as a Christmas present by someone who'd heard me enthuse about Brand. That said, I'm glad to have read it and I did enjoy it. For a start Brand did write it himself, and as a no-holds-barred piece of self-revelation, it is terrific. He is happy to share the most intimate and embarrassing details from his life, which most other memoir writers would sidestep, the x-rated details of which are too strong to mention, so you'll just have to read the book yourself!

Overall it's the familiar story of the lust for fame, sex, drugs and general wackiness, but Brand is a genuinely interesting 'case' notwithstanding his celebrity, and the same left-field verve he puts into his stand-up routines comes out in the writing. He has insightful things to say about his addiction to sex, a variety of drugs of which heroin came to dominate and also about his tendency for 'self-sabotaging behaviour', which in his early days threatened to wreck his career, but now because he's so big only seems to help it further. Simon Dee eat your heart out!

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