A modern homage to William S. Burrough’s classic Junky, the new novel Drugs is the sparse, beautifully unassuming account of one man’s life of drug use.
As Robert Crumb, who illustrated the book jacket, says, “J. R. Helton really speaks to me—starkly honest, darkly funny, acutely observant, and captures the tragic absurdity of human life. . . . [H]e’s right up there with the best of them.”
This fictionalized memoir is told in masterfully wry, Spartan prose with no apologies for a drug-user’s lifestyle, and instead looks back on it with clever insight and an appreciation for everything felt and observed. With self-awareness and conviction, Helton avoids the sensationalist commentary so common to drug memoirs and instead favors the honest details, the effects of each drug on his body and on his soul. The result is a sincerely told tale of adventure, debauchery, and absurdity.
Drugs is a story about Jake Stewart, a middle-class American from Texas who uses drugs and likes them. More importantly, he lives with them.
In author J. R. Helton’s hilarious prose, Jake inimitably narrates the ups and downs of being a functional user of marijuana, cocaine, MDMA, alcohol, nicotine, brand name hydrocodone, and countless other drugs readily available and commonly partaken of in modern America. We follow Jake on car rides with his coke dealer to menace connections in supermarket parking lots, buying prescription opiates from a megacorporate health and beauty clinic, falling in love with his wife while on a series of mushroom trips through San Antonio and Austin, binging on nitrous oxide canisters to spectral visions of Julianne Moore whispering his name. Along the way, Jake explains the effects of the drugs he’s done–not only on his body but on his soul–and at the same time lampoons an America that pretends, against all reason, that drug use is the province of the weak and the socially outcast, while simultaneously getting high and profiting off of it: an America in which drug use is not just a part of the American mainstream, but may be one of the only sane responses to the American mainstream.
The contemporary heir of William S. Burroughs’s classic Junky, J. R. Helton’s novel Drugs shows us–through sly wit, deceptively powerful prose, and the unmistakable ring of truth–a side of America that most of us allow to remain hidden in plain sight.
Paperback | $15.95
Published by Seven Stories Press May 22, 2012| 256 Pages| 5-1/2 x 8-1/4| ISBN 9781609804015
Ebook | $13.99
Published by Seven Stories Press May 15, 2012| 304 Pages| ISBN 9781609804022
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“J. R. Helton really speaks to me—starkly honest, darkly funny, acutely observant, and captures the tragic absurdity of human life. . . . [H]e’s right up there with the best of them.” —Robert Crumb
“Helton . . . writes with passion, clarity, and fairness.” —Harvey Pekar, author of American Splendor
“Just when you think there’s nothing to new to say about drugs, Drugs marches out whole new ways to fuck up your brain, your life, and basically anyone insane or unlucky enough to cross your path. This is a truly riveting, mind-altering read, not to be missed.” —Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent Midnight
“Appearances can be deceiving—JR Helton’s wonderful book is not so much about “Drugs” as it is about growing up in America as viewed through the prism of our national past-time. Funny and poignant, Helton has delivered a book that would make Mark Twain proud—it’s hilarious, true and subversive—a perfect piece of modern American writing.”—Tony O’Neill author of Down and Out on Murder Mile and Sick City
“For three days straight, I did Drugs. The straightforward matter-of-fact prose — reminiscent of William S. Burroughs’ classic memoir Junky — latched onto my brain and wouldn’t let go until the final page.” — Broken Pencil