Professor K. Cracks the Books

So, Duff published his autobiography, and I hereby order all of you to go read It’s So Easy.  I know I am as biased as they come about the man, but, the book is well worth the time you’ll spend.  I reviewed it on Amazon, so if you want more of my ecstatic waxing (that looked so much better in my head than when I typed it) enthusiasm over the subject, you can read my thoughts there.   I rather wish I had finished my thoughts about Bozza and Slash–not sure why I submitted without, but that paragraph should have read something like this:

Of the three AFD-era band members published so far, I enjoyed McKagan’s the most. Adler’s was painful in a I-can’t-even-finish-it sort of way, and while I enjoyed much of Slash’s book, I too often felt like I was reading Anthony Bozza–particularly in the quirky little questions and pseudo-cliffhangers. Folks who have followed McKagan’s post Guns-career and especially his writing will be unsurprised by how engaging the book is; folks who recall only the Duff of Use Your Illusion will be stunned. Readers looking for more salacious detail about the band once heralded as the world’s most dangerous will be disappointed. The memoir treads lightly–for the most part–there.

The same weekend I read Duff’s autobiography, I read Jack Grisham’s, which is titled American Demon.  For those who don’t spend their time mired in punk memorabilia and whatnot, Grisham hails from the early days of Orange County hardcore, most memorably for most in T.S.O.L.  Unless of course you were among those confronted by Vicious Circle, in which case, indeed, your memories may be a tad biased on the matter of the man.  And possibly his bands.  Grisham has rather oddly become a centerpiece in my class this semester, partially because his remarks in American Hardcore are themselves rather memorable, and also because it’s rather difficult to ignore that Slade in What We Do Is Secret is modeled on him (nor do I think it is intended to be ignored–and modeled isn’t nearly a strong enough verb).  As a result–or perhaps this is a matter of causation–I was drawn to the book.

While I’d undoubtedly recommend the book to someone, I’m not altogether certain who.  If you were running with Grisham at the formation during the heydays of OC hardcore, certainly it might be a take worth examining.  If you have any interest in the roots of OC hardcore, you still may enjoy it, though it doesn’t pretend to delve into punk for the most part, though he provides the obligatory and, frankly–given the rest of the book–mundane take on “real punk”:

Real punk is not being able to hold it together for your college degree, or for your long term, forty-hour-per-week day job.  Real punk isn’t fun or glamorous; real punk means that, against all your best intentions, you’re sitting in a lonely apartment with your head in your hands wondering how the fuck your destroyed your life again.  Real punk means that whatever you love is gonna be gone unless you get a touch of divine intervention–and as I said before, God doesn’t give  a fuck.

Real punk does suck.

[…]

…remember, history is rarely written by those creating it. So, I’d be careful what you read and believe. […] Columbus didn’t discover America, Edison didn’t invent the light bulb, and your favorite old-time real-cool punk band or singer wasn’t. (202-203)

I’m not sure what put me off more–the arrogance (I’m reading Jack Grisham, what else was I expecting?), the hyperbole (Edison!  Columbus!  Punk!), or the everyday wrapped in an air of revelation. As my students can testify, he’s hardly alone or original in those claims about punk.  Of course, it could simply be that I get irritated by any claim to know what “true/real/whatever” punk is.

It is all about me, after all.

As a recovery narrative–it isn’t.  I won’t go so far as other reviewers (and Grisham himself) to laud this as a book unlike the score of other books written by and about addicts in that it doesn’t end in redemption.  The publisher puts it this way: “Eloquently disregarding the prefabricated formulas of the drunk–to–sober, bad–to–good tale…”.  And, yes, the redemption narrative stops short–we don’t watch demon Jack recover, but that’s less a result of the narrative strategy than when the timeline of the book halts.  Fairly easy to avoid redemption when you stay out of the recovery part of the tale (and, indeed, there is that–Grisham has been sober for more than 20 years).  And, as more than a few examples can point out, mere sobriety does not necessarily render one a saint.  Nor a nice guy.  Nor even tolerable, nevermind redeemed and/or good.

Of course, it was intriguing enough to make me want to chart where the book belongs within the canon (such as there is) of redemption narrative and the sub-canon (far more codified) of the Faustian narrative, though that’s not quite what he produced here.

The book is worth reading, provided rape, various forms of violence (inflicted on women, men, children, well, everything, actually), and descriptions of alcohol and drug abuse aren’t triggering.  Also a general tendency toward asshole–it’s difficult to come away liking the narrative voice, though I certainly enjoyed the playfulness and the turns of phrase.  His description, for instance, of alcohol, was…uncomfortably familiar (and the very thought of Grisham in my head decidedly freaky):

Booze is a synthetic taste of God, created by man to satisfy a closeness that wasn’t there when he, the man, was created.  God, in His infinite wisdom (and need for acknowledgement), left a spiritual hole in man that only God could fill.  This way, man would have to search out his Creator to feel whole, and then than Him for being created.

Shit, that was a mouthful of words just to say that booze makes you feel all cuddly and warm inside. (45)

Okay, so not really in my head, but, yeah.  I smiled.  I even whipped out the highlighter.

Two books arguably about similar topics (white dude, hardcore punk, addiction, and in Duff’s case, life thereafter), but wildly, wildly, oh so incredibly, different.  If ever two books could showcase what differences in narrative tone and thesis can do to a story, these are ready for the pairing.

Go forth and read, my children.

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