there is a literary tradition that bends toward the self-destroyer. whether that is the pursuit of protagonists into the hell of their immolating soul. or out from that place into moments of resurrection. you know them. whether its Bukowski, Camus, or Christiane F. whether it's all true or riddled with lies, they make great reading for the experientialist who wants to live in a deathwishist's skin.
i have read a lot of these books throughout my life. probably starting with the early Balzac editions from La Comédie Humaine, and most specifically, the insanely tragic Lost Illusions. i even remember standing at the book stall in a Barnes and Noble one afternoon and reading the entirety of Slash's bio in one go. it was epic.
and so it goes that people we meet in our lives have lived these thousand deaths. and some of them, also, have the humility, courage, and poeticism to write about it. and some even do it well. one of these walks among us.
Dave Darmstaedter was a high-level male model who descended into wild and brutalizing drug use until he was dropped by his agents and agencies and forced to take work in the porn industry to keep his habits enthroned. but the story begins, and ends, with his life as a recovering addict and single father in Hollywood during the 90's. it's dark, tragic, funny, and ultimately viscerally real. there is hope here, but it comes in small envelopes. here's a taste:
"I look out of the window over the sink. The moon is still out. It's that time, seconds before dawn when it's still dark but you can see things better than the dead of night. I get a view even if it is over the top of the buildings in back of ours, through black telephone cable wires and satellite dishes. I can see the tops of the palm trees that line Beechwood Street. The long hanging palms look black. Better than the sick green look they have in the light of day. I've been to Hawaii. I've seen healthy palm trees with rich green palms hanging. I think about how I used to go to Hawaii from New York and kick heroin on my way to Japan to clean up for those forty thousand dollar a month modeling contracts in the eighties. Four rough days curled up in a Wakiki Hotel then gradually making my way back into the sun; going to beaches all over the Island, swimming, snorkeling, surfing, getting all tan and healthy.
I wash the dishes and watch the black sky turn orange and blue in the sunrise. I feel a soothing warmth come over my body as I give myself to the sky. I'm in it. In the sky. In the world. In the universe. Melting. Magic. Power. God. The dishes done with a smile. Easy. Sweet. Brief reprieves that keep my monster mind at bay."
the fact that the book is now available on Kindle for $3.99 is its own kind of fiction. because we have now arrived at a place in the digital economy where these experiences can be had for so little that we kind of lose a sense of their traction in the world. that they are real, that they have value for us. i highly recommend the book. not because it will drop you to the floor. or tell you things you've never heard before. it has not been written for that sensationalist feedback loop. no, i have this one in my shelf because it is the profound artifact of a life lived in the face of punishing humiliation and redeeming self-objectification.