The Feel-Good Hit Of The Year
Penguin Books Aus
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Liam Pieper was born in the mid-80s to parents who favoured a bohemian lifestyle. For the first couple of years he lived in a derelict manor house known as Labassa which was home to many types like his parents. Then they decided that they needed a bit more space and that he and his brother might need a backyard. And so they moved to Oakleigh.
Liam grew up knowing that his parents smoked marijuana – they didn’t see that there was anything wrong with a joint or two, or hallucinogens on special occasions. By the time he was 12, Liam had tried it himself. Then he started selling it to people in his local neighbourhood and his school friends. He became known as the person to go to whenever anyone wanted some product. He was making large amounts of cash and as his business grew, so did his knowledge. He realised the danger of meeting people or being on his bike and so he hired a driver. He befriended a crazed martial arts master for protection and allied himself with people that could help him.
For a while, it all went well. But then Liam began dabbling in other drugs, such as coke. And with that came the uppers and downers as well. His family suffered a drug-related tragedy and then Liam was arrested and charged during a police raid on his house, all in front of the mother of his girlfriend. After his court case, Liam decides that it might not be as rewarding anymore – he owes money all over town and his life is a mess in pretty much all aspects. Maybe it’s time to leave the drugs behind and adopt a different lifestyle.
Have you ever read a book where you’re not sure if it’s a work of genius or a pile of self-indulgent twaddle? For me, this memoir is pretty much that book. There’s much in here that I feel should be very moving but there’s so much in here that just bothers the hell out of me. Firstly, I’ll be up front and say I have a) no time for drugs and b) very little time for anyone that uses them. I’ve never been particularly curious about drugs and I’ve seen too many people fall into the temptation and then struggle to extract themselves. I’ve been around drugs before (I lived on campus at a university, there was just about everything within easy access) but not to the extent of the people within this book. And especially from such a young age.
There’s quite a move to decriminalise marijuana and I’ve never really felt strongly one way or another on the matter. Honestly, I think this book changes that. Taking away the mystery and ‘forbidden’ element of drugs, making it familiar does not mean that kids won’t desperately want to do it. Liam’s parents both openly smoke pot in front of their children and most of their children start joining them at a young age….I think this book says something like the parents didn’t really mind, so long as their chores were done. The way in which all three children fall victim to drugs is rather disturbing. It’s easily and readily available and there’s nothing but apathy for when the children decide to experiment. The father doesn’t believe pot has any negative side effects at all and I think this is a common misconception. Because it’s not heroin, it’s not cocaine, it’s relatively harmless. It’s not. And they don’t just stop at smoking marijuana. They all move on to taking other, even more harmful drugs and experience tragedy of varying degrees.
This is not an attempt to really glamourise the life of a petty suburban drug dealer but nor is it a cautionary tale either. Pieper is rather flippant about most things, the only thing that really seems to wring emotion out of him is what happens to his older brother Ardian, to whom this book is dedicated. Even when bad things happen to him, it’s related with a casual tone, like it’s no big deal. I’m not sure if that’s just the style or if it’s written with the relief that it all turned out okay anyway and things are fine now. There are some inconsistencies with the timing and at one stage Pieper is down and out, owing money to people, including his dealer and then he just jets off to Japan a few days later and stays there for a lengthy period of time. There’s no explanation of how he could afford this, even with some of his accommodation being courtesy of other people’s hospitality. There’s also very little on the actual quitting of taking drugs and what that might’ve been like for him after years of indulging. He gets some job that he doesn’t appear qualified for (once gain, not really explained how this happens or why) and although I applaud him for paying back those he owes money too, it’s about the only thing redeemable.
Which brings me back to my former dilemma/question: work of genius or self-indulgent? Anyone can write a memoir, but really very few of them should be published. Unfortunately I’m really not sure that this one falls into the first category. For a memoir to really affect me, I have to feel some sort of emotion for the characters, a connection or at least, sympathy. I’m not sure I ever felt anything remotely like that here. In fact what I mostly experienced was apathy.
Book #117 of 2014
This is the 10th book read for the Aussie Author Challenge 2014, where I try to challenge myself to read more books by Australian male writers.