Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Adderall Diaries: Stephen Elliott

Memoirs are, by nature, self indulgent writing. As readers we overlook this fact, hoping that the memoirist has something interesting or humorous to say. The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott is a mixed bag. At times it is a confusing rant about the life of a drug addled writer, but then it turns into the focused story of a fascinating murder. It’s a story about Elliott’s traumatic childhood, his adult penchant for sadomasochism, and his thin connection to a man on the outskirts of a high profile murder trial.

Stephen Elliott is not new to the writing world. He has written one other memoir as well as four novels and one volume of erotica. For him to begin this text by mentioning that he is battling his writer’s block by abusing the ADD medication Adderall, does not bode well for the book.

My struggle with this story is that it reads the way a man abusing Adderall would speak; it’s unfocused and wandering. I was never sure where he was taking the story, or what it was really about. The lone anchor in the story is a murder committed in 2007. A high profile computer programmer married a Russian mail-order bride, had two children with her, and after almost ten years together, murdered her for suspected infidelity. It’s an interesting event, and I’m sorry Elliott didn’t spend more time developing that story. Instead he writes about his teenage years spent living on the streets and in group homes. He writes about the strange array of dysfunctional relationships he enters. And of course, he talks about drugs. None of these things connect to the murder he is trying to write about.

Here’s the rub; Elliott is a fantastic writer. He commands a mastery of the English language. He writes with brutal honesty and ugly imagery. It is reminiscent of the Beats who wrote the garish truth (Ginsberg comes to mind). And though he is writing this self indulgent memoir, he does so by shining a light on the darker side of alternative lifestyles. He writes about sadomasochistic relationships and Adderall in his coffee as commonplace. Elliott writes about a world that most of America doesn’t even know exists, and he does so without shame. For that alone, Elliott deserves some kudos.


  1. Hello, Smarty! I just read THE HELP. I loved it. Have you read it?
    I think I'll pass on the Adderall abuser's book for now. You give excellent reviews though!

  2. I have heard great things about The Help! I keep hearing about it in the most random places, so I think it must be a sign that I should read it. ;)