I read this book before it was exposed as containing significant doses of fiction. I was blown away by the raw power of the story and the spare, hard-hitting writing. It’s hard for me to say how much of that was because I thought it was true. Certainly that added something. When you believe the narrator really did have a root canal without anaesthetic, really was wanted in however many states, etc., it makes the whole thing much more visceral.
The sad thing is that a lot of probably was true, but now we don’t know which bits (well, maybe it has all been dissected now and the truth separated from the lies, but I haven’t really been paying attention). As a story about dealing with addiction, it is still powerful. It’s a shame he felt he had to claim it as truth, even with fictional elements.
What I liked about the story, too, was that when I was reading it I kept waiting for the revelation of what caused his addictive, self-destructive behaviour and, in the end, there was nothing particularly shocking about it. That captured something about addiction: that it’s not some special thing that only people who’ve been through great trauma fall victim to. It happens to people for all sorts of reasons, and sometimes it just doesn’t make a lot of sense at all. Sometimes it’s just this internal fury, this thing that needs to be fed. I loved some of the writing, and parts of the book still stay with me now a few years later, whether they were true or false.