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The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir Paperback – September 28, 2010

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975704
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975708
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Elliott may be writing under the influence, but it's the influence of genius.” —Vanity Fair

“Elliott writes with a grace and precision that calls to mind Truman Capote’s landmark work, In Cold Blood. He, too, is fascinated by questions of motive, how our capacity to love is disfigured into evil, and our tangled mechanisms of denial.” —The Boston Globe

“A searing, self-conscious memoir of drug addiction, obsession and art as a means of survival.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“It opens with this line: ‘My father may have killed a man,’ then continues for 208 taut, high-wire, brilliant pages . . . With candor so raw it makes me never want to use ‘fiercely honest’ to describe another writer’s work.” —Las Vegas Weekly

“You won’t find a more provocative, masterful, thrilling ride than this.” —San Francisco Chronicle

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Customer Reviews

Stephen writes with amazing honesty about his life.
Christian DeBlis
The book immediately thrusts the reader into a time when the author has a severe case of writer's block that's exacerbating a depression that just seems to snowball.
Admitted Book Geek
I feel like something about myself that even I occasionally have a hard time understanding is understood by someone.
C. McQuary

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By L. A. Kane TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE 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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By rob roberge on October 3, 2009
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paul Zakrzewski on September 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I just finished this book and feel like I've been submerged in another's life for the past week. The book blurber (Nick Flynn?) who said that Stephen Elliott's ADDERALL DIARIES starts like a big ocean and hones its force to a narrow channel had it just right. The murder trial of a highly narcissistic computer programmer named Hans Reisner gives Elliott the opportunity to dive into his own past - a complicated relationship with his own violent and narcissistic father, the loss of his mother at 13, a bleak life of early suicide attempts, drugs, and group homes, and his current addiction to both Adderall and S/M relationships. Elliott writes out of a lot of understanding for both himself and others - and without judgment - which is why the sections about his love relationships, and S/M in particular, ring true. (Elliott reminds me of Dorothy Allison in this regard).

I highly recommend this book...and for those of you who've read it, you can see Elliott's adventures with his father aren't over. Just consider the review of "Gladiator" below...
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25 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Gladiator on September 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Publishers Weekly calls him "the most underrated writer in America". So I guess that makes me the most underrated dad, and my dog Lucky the most underrated dog.

Steve Elliott was adopted from a retarded couple who found it impossible to deal with his rages, anger, and tantrums. He grew up spoiled in an upper middle class Jewish home.

At 13 he was caught abusing his dying and disabled adoptive mother, causing her death, and was put in Read Mental Hospital by the State of Illinois, which he tries to conceal. He has never been homeless or lived in group homes.

Since then he has published 12 books, all of which claim vaguely that he was abused as a child--without providing specifics-- and that he "grew up in group homes". He portrays himself as a sadly oppressed street kid who became successful through his own pluck with no help from a difficult world. Needless to say, he and James Frey are good friends. He has promoted an elaborate con job into a career as a sad figure.

Recently his adoptive father donated $3,000 to help him start Rumpus, a popular blog, where he pontificates for those with literary pretensions, and rants about what a mean guy his adoptive dad is.

In THE ADDERALL DIARIES, he talks about how his thuggish, larger-than-life father might have killed a man, linking this to a famous murder case that he was pursuing for a television documentary. But since his father is a veteran of two wars, Elliott's guess that "he might have killed a man" can only provoke "Gosh, d'ya think?" as a response.
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