Liam Pieper’s memoir has the crazy of Scissors and the drugs of Tweak, all within the context of suburban Melbourne during the eighties. Pieper was raised by his bohemian parents whose day most often included smoking pot.
“The wisdom of the time was that weed was a harmless alternative to alcohol. Joints were passed around like Carlos Castaneda novels. People took acid to expand their minds. At least, they said that’s why they did it. I’ve always fond that hippies take acid to make other hippies interesting.”
Taking a leaf out of his parents’ book, Pieper and his brothers begin experimenting with drugs themselves. Pieper first gets high at age twelve –
“Suddenly we understood all those foreign, esoteric, grown-up things that until now we’d only pretended to like: art-house movies, anime, jam bands, endless guitar solos. Getting high was like finding a pamphlet that explained how to get the most out of our leisure time, and that was all we did for the next couple of years.”
By age fourteen, Pieper was supplying his friends and then within a year, was a serious dealer (complete with jujitsu skills, mobile phone, wholesalers and a driver, because he couldn’t meet his deliveries on his bicycle).
Pieper is funny. He doesn’t hold back in poking fun at himself, nor does he glamorise his situation, freely admitting to stealing, lying and cheating –
“For years I had based my persona on being a kind of suburban ronin, whose deadly wit was matched only by his fists. Now I’d been dragged into the front yard of an Ormand townhouse and tenderised by a guy who painted with acrylics. Acrylics.”
You read these kinds of books knowing that it must all end well or the person wouldn’t be writing a book. But of course drug stories get messy and the Pieper family is not spared tragedy.
“We all became familiar with the cadences of misery – stifled before-school sobbing, the slow, steady drip of tears down a nose onto a dinner plate, the uncorked animal bellow of a grieving father in the shower after the workday.”
Pieper’s writing is at its most heart-breaking when he’s talking about his family, noting that a ‘…family is always a work in progress…’. His story reminds us to cherish those closest to us and, if need be, make allowances for them.
4/5 I suspect there’s a limit to how much one can continue to enjoy misery-memoirs. I haven’t reached that limit yet and as such, couldn’t put this book down.
There are some interesting food references in the story but I couldn’t go past butter balls. There’s no picture to go with it, just let your imagination do the work *gags*.
“It’s just that your palate has a different bent when you’ve had a sly toot on the old hash pipe… Dessert was often a dish we called ‘butter balls’. The recipe was basic: take a spoonful of margarine and roll it in a jar of sugar until it is crusted in a half-inch of crystalline diabetes.”
I received my copy of The Feel-Good Hit of the Year from the publisher, Penguin Book Australia, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
*book-baby is now a word. Feel free to use it.