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

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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: 8.5 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 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: #695,674 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.


"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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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gary Gores on July 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found the book less about Adderall and more about a life with bad choices. I found it jumped around and made little sense. I would NOT recommend this book to anyone. Never made it to bookshelf--now rests comfortable in trash bin.
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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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