Friday, May 16, 2008

Smoking, heroin and opium

The third and final volume of The Smoking Diaries by Simon Gray has just been published in the UK. The Last Cigarette, like its predecessors, is not really a book of diary entries but of reminiscences, a bit faded I would guess, like an old smoking jacket. For something a little more hard core, try The Heroin Diaries, also recently published, or The Confessions of an Opium-Eater, not so recently published but freely available on the internet.

Those who admired the first two volumes by Gray, The Daily Telegraph says, ‘will be glad to know that [The Last Cigarette] is the same mixture as before: an up-to-the-minute account of what is happening to its author here and now interlaced with autobiographical flashbacks and curmudgeonly asides.’ The reviewer, Jeremy Lewis, who loves the book (‘consistently entertaining’) reinforces my own suspicions by remarking that the book’s ‘high point describes a flight from London to Athens’ and the tale of some lost luggage. Riveting stuff.

The Guardian has a longish extract, wittily called Gray’s Anatomy. An alternative, and more informative, title might have been The First Fuck - but I suppose The Guardian is a family paper.

Extracts from the first volume, The Smoking Diaries, can be found on the Amazon website. Here’s a sample from the first page: ‘Thus am I, at sixty-five and a day. Thus he is, at sixty-five and a day, a farter, a belcher, a dribbler and a what else did I say I did, farting, belching, dribbling, oh yes, wheezing. But then as I smoke something like sixty-five cigarettes a day people are likely to continue with their inevitable “Well if you insist on getting through three packets. etc.” to which I will reply, as always - actually I can’t remember what I always reply, and how could I, when I don’t believe anyone, even my doctors, ever says anything like, “Well if you insist, etc.” In fact I’m merely reporting a conversation I have with myself, quite often, when I find myself wheezing . . .’

There’s something endearingly old-fashioned about Simon Gray, his smoking, and his diaries, But there is very little to be recommended in having a publisher, Granta, so behind the times: its website carries no information about Simon Gray or his three volumes of non-diary diaries.

Meanwhile, as I say, for something a little more hard core, try The Heroin Diaries, published by Simon & Schuster. Wikipedia gives some basic information: ‘The book is co-written by Nikki Sixx, bassist of the heavy metal bands Mötley Crüe and Sixx:A.M., and Ian Gittins. It’s a 432-page collection of diary entries written between Christmas of 1986 and Christmas of 1987, and chronicles Sixx’s wild lifestyle, drug addiction, descent into paranoia and depression, and his subsequent recovery.’

Otherwise, for a cross between Gray and Sixx, try Thomas de Quincey’s classic Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, which is nearly 200 years old. The full text is available on many websites. One of the easiest to read is at The University of Adelaide Library.

Finally, it’s worth noting that there are several good titles still available for addicts or ex-addicts, such as The Last Whisky, The Last Spliff, The Last Fix - but not, I'm afraid, The Last Fuck, which is the title of a 2003 horror flick!

1 comment:

Adam said...

interesting and informative