Thursday, November 12, 2009

#60 - Long Past Stopping

When the US presented this book at conference a world and a half ago, I was totally taken with the cover. The idea that the son of Jack Canfield, the author of those (ridiculous?) Chicken Soup for the Soul books, became a heroin addict and lived to tell the tale was intriguing. I did two things I never do: 1) judged a book by its cover and 2) picked up the book solely based on the fact that its blurb intrigued me. And trust me when I say I've got some issues with a book blurb. So much so that I rarely read them and almost never pick up the book because of them.

Annnywaaay. Oran Canfield's roughly my age but we've had two very different lives. First of all, he grew up with a fiercely intelligent mother (that's not so different from me) who pretty much kept him outside of your typical societal norms. He was raised by libertarians, went to an anarchist boarding school, joined the circus for a while (and competed as a juggler), and was often left with individuals who had questionable parenting skills yet nonetheless took part in forming him as he grew older. Secondly, his father left the family when he was very young and before his brother, Kyle, was born. Lastly, there's that whole heroin addict situation. Oh, and then there's the whole his dad became a multi-millionaire thingy too.

His memoir, Long Past Stopping, not unlike Dry by Augusten Burroughs, presents addiction in a harrowing yet utterly matter-of-fact way which makes it impossible not to get pulled into his story. There's irony in how addictive these kinds of memoirs are -- how easy it is to just keep reading as the hero (or heroine) moves from fix to fix. Gets themselves deeper and deeper into the black hole when they'd much rather be with that great girl that's finally showing them the time of day. Also, it might just be me, but it's so much easier to read addiction stories than it is to watch them (like say Intervention). There's a level of separateness once you know the author's gone through it and come out the other side. Also, Canfield's a survivor. He doesn't set out to get hooked on heroin. In fact, his introduction to the drug seems innocent rather than ominous, and the practical nature of how he starts shooting (he's simply wasting too much of the drug by smoking it) seems almost blase when you read it.

The tone of this book is consistently infused with his infectious, intelligent sense of humour. And while the writing might not be Nobel-prize worthy (I have to admit I felt the dialogue was particularly weak), it's impossible not to be interested in this book from start to finish. I'm willing to forgive things that I don't normally (like weak dialogue) when it comes to this book (because, let's face it, I'm a snob) primarily because the story itself, his life, is just so damn fascinating. And I'm willing to bet anyone else who picks up this book will end up with a Totally Inappropriate Crush on its author too. Just try it and see if you can put it down after browsing a few chapters. The structure of the book is smart too -- it vacillates between his childhood and his adulthood in a way that breaks up the more dramatic, traumatic moments, and it's certainly a relief when he finally finds his way off the junk.

Never say I don't use my power for good. Here's a quirky and fun road trip guest blog post he wrote for us over on The Savvy Reader. And to get a sense of his sense of humour, watch this video.

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