I picked this book up on a whim, needing something to read and wanting a break from my customary fare. On one hand, I proceeded without any obvious (t...moreI picked this book up on a whim, needing something to read and wanting a break from my customary fare. On one hand, I proceeded without any obvious (to me) preconceived notions about what I would find. On the other, the blurb on the back suggested a sociological view of the Adderal problem: its effects, uses, abuses and an exploration of a non-pharmaceutical alternative.
What I found was a personal narrative, a partial biography/memoir of a young man with impulse control issues. The tale follows him from one childish 'prank' to another, where each succeeding crisis in his life becomes more serious than the last. Two things stood out for me in the first half of the book - 1) his parents' reactions are curiously omitted, muted, or presented as simple punishments which he defines as showing a 'lack of trust'; 2) he seems to define himself as a reflection of the friends he keeps amused and who encourage his behavior.
Without explicitly admitting to the ability, he is adept at manipulating those around him primarily through confessing to his guilt and agreeing that he deserves punishment. He has such a sympathetic air that he often escapes the worst consequences. Indeed, the reader sympathizes with a young boy who obviously is suffering and needs help.
At some point, the author realizes his behavior is abnormal and, as I read it, appears to seek medical assistance at his own instigation. This leads him to take Adderal.
From that point forward, the narrative becomes disjointed. Whether intentionally, to represent a mental state affected by drugs and a persistent use of alcohol, or as a measure of the writer's skill, is unclear. The reference to OJ Simpson and his nickname resulting from drinking orange juice before his incarceration was either an illustration of his confused mental state, or an example of his life-long learning disability - I could not be sure which.
Excerpts from the author's medical record are included, without comment. Whether or not the clinician notes are complete is unknown, but the references are terse and mechanical. Did that represent the objective, by the book nature of the accepted plan of care - fix it with a pill?
He clearly attributes his ability to complete a college education to the focus the drug provided, yet constantly laments that he doesn't feel like himself. For me, this would have been a key point to explain as that has become a stereotypical excuse for persons failing to take their prescribed medications. Stating the drug created an artificial focus and stole creativity is a judgment and not a description that can be absorbed and felt by the reader. I wanted a representation that would, if not give me an understanding of that condition, at least offer a way to appreciate the strain the individual is undergoing. The introduction of suicidal thoughts was certainly startling and fortunately were reported to have disappeared soon after. Yet that, too, warranted deeper description.
The suggestion that Adderal has become the drug of choice, whether it is common knowledge or not, is only anecdotally supported and with minimum instances. The reference to alternate, non-drug related therapies is touched on several times with little documentary support or description other than a reference to several of the author's favorite mental challenges. If memory training made such a difference in his life, it merited a more complete description of what and how.
In the end, it is left to the reader to determine if the struggle to stop using the drug is because the author misses the freedom to behave as the moment strikes him or because he wants to consciously refrain from that behavior as his personal choice. A central tenet in the final third of the book is the 'privilege of youth' which I took to mean to experience life in the wildest, most unconstrained manner possible, where irresponsible behavior should be condoned strictly because of one's youth. That may not have been his intention, but that's what I came away with.
I applaud the author's honesty in writing about his life and experiences and the book shows flashes of an ability to string words together in an interesting manner. But on the whole it is inconsistent, much as he describes his thinking process. Perhaps his writing resonates with other millenials and they find it to be an effective means of communication - other than Facebook, Twitter, and texting.
But hey, I did finish it and it spawned a reaction. What more can a fledgling writer want? (less)
I had high hopes for this novel given the setting which intrigued me but could not figure out what the story was about until more than half-way throug...moreI had high hopes for this novel given the setting which intrigued me but could not figure out what the story was about until more than half-way through the novel. A combination of the style and the tense made this a significantly onerous read for nearly two-thirds of the book. At about that point the story became clear and while the writing style remained the same, the story was not nearly so opaque. Up until then it seemed more like a travelogue or a cultural study. If the author's aim was to overwhelm the reader with impressions of every-day Istanbul, then at least he was successful in doing so with this reader. I found the characterization to be strong and consistent. The repeated changes in view point were difficult in the early portions of the novel until I was able to recognize the different characters involved. That worked considerably better in the final portion of the novel. I was uncertain about the geographical references but the historical references and their importance to the story were well-done. The presentation of the every-day cultural life, economic, social, religious, and political were all well-done. (For a comparison, see Orhan Pamuk's Istanbul-Memories and the City.) The conclusion of the novel was satisfying, though I believe felt contrived. (less)
I've always liked the 'Tommy and Tuppence' stories though at times the plots turn on some fortuitous occurrences. Of particular note was the reference...moreI've always liked the 'Tommy and Tuppence' stories though at times the plots turn on some fortuitous occurrences. Of particular note was the reference to Nurse Cavell who was shot as a spy in the first war. (less)