Bizarre Book Club 5: A Drug and Madness Special

Drugs and madness, everyone’s favourite things! It’s in the lyrics of the extra bit in that number Julie Andrews sang to the Von Trapp children that ended up on the cutting room floor. It’s true. Bee keeping was probably in there too.

I'm dead intellectual I am
I’m dead intellectual I am

Anyway…we all love Burroughs, but what of those before him?

1. Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey. Essentially Junky for the Georgian period, this long and rather waffling essay (still entertaining though, don’t get me wrong) details the author’s fall into the grip of opium addiction. Made more interesting by the fact that his buddies and fellow hop heads were Byron and Coleridge, I recommend this to anyone with a high concentration level, which I admit wasn’t always me (ooh, squirrels).

2. The Decapitated Chicken and Other Stories by Horacio Quiroga. Here’s a blog post on the Uruguayan author’s frankly depressing life and possibly the reason his stories frequently include death, madness and murder. Perhaps I’m wrong but I get the feeling his writing is more poetic than the English translation, however I still enjoyed his Mediterranean infused gothic tales.

3. Hunger by Knut Hamsun. The main character in Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun’s turn of the century novel is really hungry. Seriously, that’s the basis of the book, and it’s amazing.

Hamsun wanted to show the fragility of human perception by detailing the ups and downs in a struggling writer’s life. Everything seems hopeful when he’s had a bit of bread, but without it he does and says some very peculiar things, including harassing a young lady as she wanders down the street and almost eating a pencil. It’s much better than I’ve explained here so I suggest getting a copy forthwith.

4. The Young Doctor’s Notebook (or Country Doctor’s Notebook)/Morphine by Mikhail Bulgakov. Frequently paired together, especially since the brilliant adaptation featuring Jon Hamm, this collection of short stories details in naturalistic prose the usually surreal author’s (his other works include The Master and Margarita) time as a country doctor in Russia. Oh, and his raging morphine addiction.

The stories of treating his confused peasant patients are worth it alone (a woman in labour is brought in and the midwives check her vagina only to find lumps of sugar inserted. The baby was overdue and they’d apparently tried to ‘lure it out’). However some of the nightmarish scenarios in Morphine (a fictionalised account, as are all the stories) stay with you. I had no idea morphine withdrawal would really cause terrifying hallucinations, I thought that scene in Trainspotting was just to jazz it up a bit.

He’s a funny and thought provoking writer and I’m now going to search out his other, apparently weirder, works and you probably should too.

Well that’s all I have time for, but be sure to tune in for more exciting updates. In the meantime, here’s a cat saying “Oh Long Johnson.”

Junky fights, escort ads and a suicidal Barbie

Yesterday I went for a wander through Shoreditch in London, where the hipster artists go to pose. It ended up being quite unexpectedly productive and gave me a story idea. I also noticed this artist selling her wares (the art, not herself) at the market.

I’ve also decided that once I actually know some things about photography and have a half decent camera I’ll wander around London and take pictures of the interesting folks; I like unusual types as mentioned in my post about ‘freaky fashion’.

I came across the amusing scenes in the photos below and overheard an argument between two junkies on the bus back, which was a bonanza. How did I know they were junkies? If you ever hear them talk, you know they’re on heroin.

Everyone else on the bus gave each other looks as if to say, ‘well, how awful!’ but I got out my pen and paper and wrote it all down.

I will call her Trixie, and him Jeff. Imagine their voices in an estuarine, drug-induced whine. This is roughly how it went:

Trixie: Well, who is that person’s number then?

Jeff: Text it then and say, who is this, its Trixie?

Trixie: You just want me to say who I am so she knows its me and not you

Jeff: No, just text it then, go on or give it here

Trixie: Alright! I am, I’ve done it.

Jeff: Well what did they say then?

Trixie: It says, ‘don’t know who this is, your girl borrowed my phone’

Jeff: Oh yeah, what have you been up to then you sh***y horrible c**t?

Trixie: You’re the one who’s been doin’ something you c**t

Jeff: You horrible c**t, what have you done?

Trixie: Oh yeah, you gonna split my face open when we get home?

Jeff: I ain’t never hit you

Trixie: You did…(inaudible)

Jeff: Well, you can either forgive me or you can’t. You need to get over it

Trixie: It makes me feel sick whenever I think about it. I ain’t giving you money for your next comedown

Jeff: Oh yeah, you was the one saying on the phone that time, ‘Can’t talk, Jeff’s here.’

And so it went on, until she declared she was going to her mother’s and they both got off the bus. I hope you like the snapshots I got on my phone of a couple of entertaining sights in Shoreditch:

Notice the Barbie about to jump