I could tell you The Book of Drugs is an honest and darkly humorous account of one man’s descent into addiction and his return through sobriety. I could tell you that M. Doughty’s short-lived brush with celebrity was enough to jar him and his fragile genius into the dark and beautiful world of drug addiction only to end his rock and roll career. I could even tell you that addiction ravaged yet another creative force, the likes of which we all too rarely see, destroying one of the 90’s most pioneering bands and driving Doughty to alienate himself from the world he was poised to be a historical part of. But I won’t, because if you read The Book of Drugs you will see these obvious observations and also read them in most reviews and on most fan sites. For me, I saw something more than just the usual memoir lists of sadness and self-loathing ego stroking, I saw a development of a conceptual idea; a study in memory and the human ability to reason and rebound.
Doughty trots out of the gate with the nonchalant shock of Jim Carroll’s prose and the unintentionally deep artistic presentation of William S. Burroughs, this book is a piece of art. The further I read the more entrenched I became in Doughty’s point of view of his world: a world he wasn’t so sure he even belonged in. He seemed so unsure of his belonging in his life at the time that he eventually disbanded Soul Coughing and reinvented himself as a more honest, true to himself Mike Doughty; that is how we find him today. But I digress, I don’t want to talk about his band or their history; you can read that online.
The structure of the book reflects the tone of a personal conversation with Mike. The absence of chapters or rigid timelines allows for him to follow up on tangents that come up while recounting certain events. The apparent loose structure of his stories allows him the freedom to linger on strong memories and help the reader navigate the swells, buildups, releases and letdowns of his life.
The cleverly written passages expose the matter-of-factness of addiction while focusing, if mostly through chemical goggles, what stands out as poetic and tragic. But it is all real and true to Doughty’s memories and emotions. The tragic demise of Soul Coughing is expressed with empathy but you can also understand Mike’s reasoning and point of view with explanations, back-stories and observations that reinforce the feelings being shared with you.
M. Doughty has cemented himself within literature as an honest, truthful and darkly comedic voice that many readers can relate to. His emergence as a solo musician along with an impressive and ever growing resume of literary achievements has transformed him from post-grunge avant-garde band leader to columnist, play write, author, poet, photographer, incidental comedian and some what of a slacker intellectual. His ability to blur the lines of conventional word based art and reality for that matter will continue to contribute to his success as a member of the new beat generation as he utilizes his artistic gifts to present the world through his filter.
Filed under: Best Reads