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The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder Hardcover – September 1, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As a writer stymied by past success, writers block, substance abuse, relationship problems and a serious set of father issues, Elliott's cracked-out chronicle of a bizarre murder trial amounts to less than the sum of its parts. Not long into the 2007 trial of programmer Hans Reiser, accused of murdering his wife, the defendant's friend Sean Sturgeon obliquely confessed to several murders (though not the murder of Reiser's wife). Elliott, caught up in the film-ready twist and his tenuous connection to Sturgeon (they share a BDSM social circle), makes a gonzo record of the proceedings. The result is a scattered, self-indulgent romp through the mind of a depressive narcissist obsessed with his insecurities and childhood traumas. Elliott is an undeniably good writer, but his voice has more to do with amphetamines than the author himself or the trial at hand. Elliott's frustration with himself is contagious; any readers expecting a true crime will be bewildered, and those familiar with Elliott (My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up) will find more (or less) of the same.
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Review

“A refined, beautiful work of art. . . deserves a place on the shelf next to such classics of uninhibited American introspection as On the Road and A Fan's Notes.” ―Kirkus, starred review

“Brilliant, memorable prose. . . an unforgettable read.” ―Foreword

“You don't just read The Adderall Diaries; you fall right into them. You read as if you are a few words behind the writer, trying to catch up, to find out what happens, to yell at him that he's doing a great job. And he is. It's a brilliant book.” ―Roddy Doyle

The Adderall Diaries is a startling and original concoction, an irresistible melding of reportage and memoir and reconstruction. This is Stephen Elliott's best book, perfectly suited to his gifts as a seeker, as a storyteller, as a poet of wounds, unwelcome and otherwise. ” ―Sam Lipsyte

The Adderall Diaries is phenomenal. With jittery finesse and a reformed tweaker's eye for detail, Stephen Elliott captures the terrifying, hilarious, heart-strangling reality of a life whose scorched-earth physical and psycho-emotional dimensions no one could have invented--they absolutely had to be lived. By all rights, the author should either be dead or chewing his fingers in a bus station. Instead, he may well have written the memoir of an entire generation. ” ―Jerry Stahl

“I felt like a voyeur reading Stephen Elliott's memoir--what is shocking and unbearable to most of us is commonplace to him. Although a murder trial provides the structure for this book, it is really about the strangeness of life, about things that don't make sense and never will, about lessons that don't get learned, and ultimately about what we can and can't know about ourselves and others. Reading The Adderall Diaries is like taking a step toward the edge of a cliff so you can peer down and imagine what it might be like to slip and fall. Normally we shudder and step back. Stephen Elliott jumps, and his harrowing, riveting memoir convinces you to follow him vicariously.” ―Amy Tan

The Adderall Diaries begins like the ocean, seemingly able to take in everything--prize fights to Paris Hilton--until the ocean forms into a river, making its way through unmapped territories--a murder, an absent father--and finally this river is distilled into one precious teardrop. Stephen Elliott is one of those 'people who keep searching when everything is dark'--I don't know a more hauntingly fearless writer, and this is an immediate, visceral, and ultimately beautiful book.” ―Nick Flynn

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975380
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975388
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #266,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. A. Kane VINE VOICE on September 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Once one has mastered the rules, it becomes possible for a gifted few to transcend them. If you ask accomplished musicians, for example, they will tell you that it takes more than 10,000 hours of technical emersion before their musicianship can truly be considered art. In The Adderall Diaries, author Stephen Elliott shatters the strictures of conventional writing to create a poignant chronicle that remains with the reader long after he or she has finished the work. It is edgy, erratic, and often disheartening, yet absolutely riveting. As the author himself states, "to write about oneself honestly one has to admit a certain inconsistency and randomness that would never be tolerated in even the best of novels."

Events are not presented in chronological order, yet the narrative is understandable and relatively easy enough to navigate nevertheless. While not for everyone, particularly those with tender sensibilities, this book is a remarkable read. Those who peruse its pages will be rewarded by the creativity, insight, and pure art-form that comprise Elliot's writing. The subject matter is incredibly disturbing, yet like Adderall, a Schedule D amphetamine from whence the author's addiction lent the book its name, once you fall into the story it is extraordinarily challenging to break free.

In some ways a real-life version of John O'Brien's heartrending Leaving Las Vegas, Elliot's book was supposed to have been a true-crime drama, yet it morphed into an autobiography along the way. The backdrop is the nearly six month trial of Hans Reiser, a brilliant but curmudgeonly Linux programmer, who was accused of killing his estranged wife Nina. Despite hiring a respected attorney, Hans' narcissistic personality, peculiar behavior, and condescending manner undermine his case before the jury.
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Format: Kindle Edition
There are at least three distinctive parts to this exciting and fascinating book: "The Adderall Diaries" authored by Steven Elliot. This is part memoir, a true-crime expose, and literary and medical criticism/essay. The Adderall Diaries will also be featured soon as a major commercial film presentation.

Steven Elliot was from Chicago, where his Cambodian father settled after immigrating, his mother died a premature death from MS (multiple sclerosis), leaving his father a young widower. He soon remarried, and started a new family. Elliot spent most of his teens in a boys home, unwanted/unclaimed, his father appeared in court, mostly to provoke Elliot in rage; refusing to disclose his home address.
Elliot would spend most of his young adult life homeless, keeping his possessions including his snowboard and bicycle in his car. In traveling he noted Nevada 50 as "the loneliest road in America." He had many friends, the lovers he had were usually inappropriate for him. He was attracted to women who hurt/humiliated him, masochism he was well aware of, yet unable to change, powerless to prevent.

Elliot was contacted by his father who wrote negative insulting reviews for his books on Amazon; he also earned extra income writing, journalism, and filing reports for 20/20. Elliot noted Geoff Dyer's book: "Out of Sheer Rage" and how Dyer worked through a major depressive episode studying the writing of D.H. Lawrence. William Styron the author of "Darkness Visible", spent time in mental hospitals, often incoherent by pills and treatment, was cared for by his wife in his later years, meeting her as a brilliant young writer.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
i didnt mean to read this book, because Im found it saved on my daughters Kindle.
The author , obviously, has had a tough life. It seem miraculous that he managed to grow to adulthood.

The murder case he is covering is one that I am familiar with. Unfortunately. I was disappointed that the testimony of Nina's little son was not covered . But, I probably missed the point. This book reveals such personal sufffering.
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Format: Hardcover
Stephen Elliott has created a work of art from some dissimilar sources as writer's block, an Adderall problem, the loss of friends back home, the pull of a murder trial where he's tangentially aligned with some of the players involved and, of course, his own issues with love and intimacy and his difficult relationship with his estranged father.

It sounds like a lot of plates to keep spinning and Elliott does it with seeming effortlessness (which is never effortless when you try to write such things). The pace never lags, and the compelling, beautifully written voice never lets you down.

His work has an admirable honesty, lovely, sharp, intelligent prose, and a great ability to bring the reader into the emotional landscape of the text.

I could go on, but the short version is that this is one of the best books I've read in a couple of years and I'd HIGHLY recommend that you read it too. 5 stars.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I NEVER review books, but I feel like people should be warned: this book is crap. Elliot intended to write a true crime novel and ended up with a barely comprehensible narcissistic rambling, so he slapped "A Memoir" on the cover and called it a day.

If you are looking for an autobiography, a true crime novel, a depiction of life with drug addiction or even just an introduction to S&M, you can find much better. It was hard to finish (and I wouldn't have, except it was for a bookclub).
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