, author of the acclaimed novel, Happy Baby
, and other works, both fiction and nonfiction, has written a new memoir, The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder
, due out in September from Graywolf Press
. There's a detailed and glowing review on Fanzine
The Adderall Diaries
, Elliott notes, is "structured around the depths of my own psychic pain." Part true-crime story and courtroom drama, part a story of depression, sex, and drug use, and of the author's troubled relationship with his father, these seemingly disparate elements inform each other and contribute to a fuller picture of the author's life and struggles.
The true crime drama that overlays that of Elliott's own life experiences is the long and sensational trial of Hans Reiser, accused of killing his wife, Nina, a mail-order bride who became a model wife and mother of two. There's much evidence to implicate Reiser, but he maintains his innocence. Elliott becomes interested in the case when an acquaintance, a man named Sean Sturgeon, who's also an ex-boyfriend of the deceased woman, claims to be a murderer, though there is no evidence that he's committed any crime. Could this man have been involved in Nina's death? Or is he a red herring?
Elliott chronicles the trial, and it becomes a pathway to examining certain aspects of his own life, especially his abandonment by his father. Following an incisive character profile of the defense attorney, Elliott concludes that the point is "not truth. The point of the defense is that there is no truth." Truth, as this book proves again and again, is not so absolute.
A witness who knows Reiser from jail is called to the stand. He's asked why he decided to testify.
"I've done some bad things. But killing your wife, that's evil," the witness says.
"I see. And you would say it's evil to kill your wife, but not to smack her around?" the defense lawyer asks, referring to the witness's own felony conviction.
The witness smiles. "That wasn't my wife," he says.
I found myself connecting the dots in my head as I read, drawing conclusions based on the facts as well as the author's interpretation of events. Defending his use of material from his life and his friends' lives, Elliott writes, "It's just what I do. I spend years crafting a...story, all the time my life sits next to me like a jar of paint."
In trying to explain this book, I find myself going in a million directions, but trust me, it all eventually makes sense. Even the section I read with the most sadness-- where Elliott claims that he feels in some way responsible for his father's abusive behavior, as if it's up to him to forgive and heal the rift his father caused. I found myself wanting to convince the author that only an adult can be held responsible in that situation. Why doesn't he understand, I want to ask him, that the child is never to blame?
The Adderall Diaries
is a book rich with ideas on the subjectivity of truth and some hope for the ability to move forward even the smallest distance, in spite of the greatest pain. As Elliott chronicles the trial, he feels his depression lift, though he can still see it looming, "like a cloud cresting a mountain range." But, briefly, he finds some relief. And maybe, at times, that's the best we can hope for.