Read The Adderall Diaries by Stephen Elliott Online


In the spring of 2007, a brilliant computer programmer named Hans Reiser stands accused of murdering his estranged wife, Nina. Despite a mountain of circumstantial evidence against him, he proclaims his innocence. The case takes a twist when Nina’s former lover, and Hans’s former best friend, Sean Sturgeon, confesses to eight unrelated murders that no one has ever heard oIn the spring of 2007, a brilliant computer programmer named Hans Reiser stands accused of murdering his estranged wife, Nina. Despite a mountain of circumstantial evidence against him, he proclaims his innocence. The case takes a twist when Nina’s former lover, and Hans’s former best friend, Sean Sturgeon, confesses to eight unrelated murders that no one has ever heard of.At the time of Sturgeon’s confession, Stephen Elliot is paralyzed by writer’s block, in the thrall of Adderall dependency, and despondent over the state of his romantic life. But he is fascinated by Sturgeon, whose path he has often crossed in San Francisco’s underground S&M scene. What kind of person, he wonders, confesses to a murder he likely did not commit? One answer is, perhaps, a man like Elliott’s own father.So begins a riveting journey through a neon landscape of false confessions, self-medication, and torturous sex. Set against the backdrop of a nation at war, in the declining years of the Silicon Valley tech boom and the dawn of Paris Hilton’s celebrity, The Adderall Diaries is at once a gripping account of a murder trial and a scorching investigation of the self. Tough, tender, and unflinchingly honest, it is the breakout book by one of the most daring writers of his generation....

Title : The Adderall Diaries
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781555975388
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 208 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Adderall Diaries Reviews

  • Anita Dalton
    2019-06-12 14:12

    I don’t intend to demean the power of the addiction or sexual discovery narrative, and I don’t want to demean those who may have found something relevant in Elliott’s narrative. And I fully admit that I may have missed something because I have not read any of Elliott’s other works. I wonder if I would have cared more if I had read his other books. But the fact remains that I did not care much about this book. The narrative was flat and uninvolved. The addiction barely registered as being damaging. The bondage and S&M details were seemingly tossed out with no emotion or attempt to lure the reader into a deeper sense of understanding Elliott. It’s a bizarre condemnation of a memoir to say it was self-absorbed, but that was the problem I had with this book.How can a memoir be self-absorbed? Well, it’s easy, actually. When someone you find interesting goes on and on about him or herself, your interest trumps the self-absorption. It is subjective, to be sure, but a memoir has to contain content that makes the reader care that they are reading a stranger go on and on about him or herself. Given the proliferation of it, this flat, disengaged writing style must appeal to someone. But I am not that person. ( Which is odd, in a way, because I am fully aware that my book discussions are utterly self-indulgent, written to please myself as much as to entertain and inform.)The subject matters of this book – addiction, sexual taboos, a murder trial – should all be interesting. But conveyed through Elliott’s numb prose, it is all unexciting. It’s the literary equivalent of tapioca with a dash of tequila. It’s white bread with a dab of mold on it. It’s a boring man telling boring stories to a barely interested audience. I contrast the content of this book with much more taboo writing, like the non-fiction of Peter Sotos, and it becomes clear why Elliott’s writing did not appeal to me. Sotos, in his extremity, forces the reader to think, or to react at the very least. Elliott’s numb tale was like watching a Warhol movie. As I read this book, a quote from Charles Bukowski came to mind often: “Boring damned people. All over the earth.”Read my entire discussion here.

  • jo
    2019-05-20 16:46

    this book is quite a feat of love and a feat of pain and a feat of endurance. elliott starts off with a bad case of writer's block. then something comes up, a dude who just confessed to having killed more than eight people (eight and a half) and another dude, dude #1's friend, who's been arrested for having killed his ex-wife. elliott thinks these two stories are his ticket out of writer's block. elliott is also putting into himself ever more generous quantities of adderall, a synthetic amphetamine designed for people with ADHD. some of it he takes in pills, some of it he snorts. quicker that way. this causes him to stay up at night. with his writer's block. part of the book follows the increasingly bizarre stories of dude #1's and dude #2's murders. the stories are crazy enough, but elliott's recounting makes them all the more lurid. the speed that laces his narrative makes you feel like it must, all of it, have been made up; stuff like this doesn't happen in the real world. but stuff like this does happen in the real world, and there are writers who stay up all night to tell it. at the same time, elliott is also involved with dude #1 on a personal level. they are both sadomasochists. elliott doesn't link his sadomasochism explicitly to his hair-raising childhood, but the connection is not far from the surface. so stories of elliott's childhood pop up regularly in the narrative. often they are the same stories though details are added. the stories get more and more brutal. elliott has terrible moments in which he doubts his own stories. in other moments, he belittles their seriousness. it was only that one time. i didn't have it as bad as other people. things got okay after a bit. and you want to reach out, across the pages and the publisher and walls and gates that keep you from stephen elliott and say to him, no, stephen, you had it really shitty my friend, so so shitty. there are girls. many girls. elliott sleeps with some but not much. he is not into sex. he's into being hurt. being hurt feels good. he doesn't do seriously hard-core S/M (or so he tells us; i don't dare think what seriously hard-core S/M looks like) but he finds tremendous solace in being given pain and then being comforted. at some point in the middle of a beating session one of his girlfriends says she's going to go to the bathroom to wash her hands and elliott seriously freaks out. don't go. she doesn't go. at the writing of this book stephen elliott is 35-36. the book is about the writing of itself. it's also about the life elliott lives while not writing the book, and the memories, all the torturous hellish memories of loves had and lost, of abandonments and group homes and psychiatric hospitals and violence endured and endured and endured. stephen elliott's father is a mean abusive unmoored man. by the end of the book, elliott realizes that he loves this man. why he loves him is not explained to us, and rightly so. elliott is savvy about feelings. he does not analyze them much; he presents them as innocently and vulnerably as can be done, though you know that a lot of work goes into this presentation. to wit. many scenes are pruned to their bare bones and it would be nice if they were pruned less. it would be nice to have more words. the sentences and the words are lovely, but it would nice to have less choppiness. elliott is afraid of saying too much, of failing to see in the book's reviews words like "taut" and "sparse." i wish he hadn't worried so much. it's okay to go on a little longer. to wit. cities change constantly. often we don't know if we are in san francisco or chicago. the fact that we don't know the city doesn't enrich the narrative. it's okay to say, "then i went to chicago."elliott rarely sleeps in his bed. it's hard to keep track of where he is staying at any given time. but he has a job, and job assignments, and he is a writer and a journalist. as some point you nail it: he is sharing an apartment. finally. but he doesn't spend much time in it. the marvel of this book is that it's about writing. it's about writing with a demon riding your back. the demon whips you within an inch of your life and this is where you produce your best writing. by the end of the book elliott has eased up on the adderall, but we have learned so much about him, we feel it would be nothing, absolutely nothing, to ask him to come and crash on our couch for a night or two. and if he did, it would be nothing, absolutely nothing, to ask him, man, are you okay?

  • Imogen
    2019-06-05 18:11

    Okay, first of all, Nine did a really good job with this book: stupid story about me and this book is that, y'know the thing where folks were passing around advance copies of it? Stephen Elliott sent advance copies to folks, who got to keep it for a week, then would forward it on to someone else. What a great idea, right? Except I had had it for three days when I lost my copy. I think it probably fell out of my girlfriend's car somewhere up near Rockridge? I live right where the book takes place: I go by the Berkeley Bowl on my way to work. The BART station where Stephen goes is like three blocks from my house. I've been inside every bar he mentions, and y'know, I didn't really mean to end up in the bay, either, but I find myself really fitting in and happy here, just like him. So... yeah. The meat of the book? I've read all but one (I think) of his other books, and they do just tend to go over a fictionalized version of his history, in different ways; he writes about that in the Adderall Diaries. What's interesting is that, as a Writer (not so much as a person), this one feels like a step forward, like it's tying up all those novels and saying "here's why, here's how- what's next?" I don't think I can do a good job talking about it. The way he writes, it's so plain and direct that it almost seems wrong- like, it almost seems like the writing isn't very good, until you realize that you've been explicitly visualizing every noun he's mentioned, that you can picture each one of these characters (even if they have similar names), and that you feel like you know him.*shrug* Most of the way through I was like, 'I am into this, but it's hardly great,' and then about three quarters of the way through he started tying up the different things he's been writing about with the Joan Didion line about telling ourselves stories to make sense of our lives, and then- yeah, jeez. That's what this is about: the stories people make out of their lives, how sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't, and the mechanisms by which we tell ourselves we're not doing it. So yeah. I don't know. I think my experience reading this was much richer for having read and liked his earlier work so much. Good for you Stephen Elliott! This book is fantastic. Also, the Rumpus is wonderful.Oh one other thing- her gets called 'confessional' a lot, but I think I disagree with that. A lot of the kink stuff he writes about would be confessional in most folks' hands, but I think the word implies a kind of, like, a guilt relationship with the things being confessed? That's just not here. I mean, maybe it is somewhere, but one of the most appealing things about Stephen Elliott's writing- and it always has been- has been the direct way he writes about the kind of sex that people on television aren't even allowed to imply they have. It's not sensational, it's not ashamed, and it's not even a little bit braggy- it's direct and explicit and y'know. Beautiful, actually. The closest analogue I have is a death-obsessed, real-life-not-fiction Dennis Cooper.

  • Aurelia D'andrea
    2019-05-30 12:55

    By page 40 I was annoyed by the number of typos; OK, so that's a minor issue. Or is it? Maybe it's a sign of the complete lack of care that went into this book. I don't know -- there's so much hype about this guy, and at the halfway point in this book, I'm not finding him to be all that fantastic of a writer/thinker/story teller. He's just a weirdo who's had some lucky breaks (and some not-so-lucky breaks). I mean, just becuase you tell us that you like having your nipples pinched until they bleed, are we supposed to feel you've really "opened up" to your audience? Is this authenticity, or just a stage for your admittedly narcissistic performance urges? Ugh!Quick follow up: the final typo, on page 199 ("naval" when it should have read "navel") just sealed the deal: I cannot recommend this book. Narcissistic, creepy, lazy writing, loose story parallels that are supposed to anchor the story ... it doesn't really work, but it was an easy read that, if you had absolutely nothing else to do, might be good for a bus or BART ride.

  • Oriana
    2019-06-09 12:11

    after: Okay, here's another quicky book review. This is a weird, rambly, disjointed book. Right before I started it, I signed up for the Rumpus email list, and if you've never read it, it's a daily dose of Stephen Elliott's weird, rambly, disjointed musings. So I pretty much knew what I was getting into with this. It wasn't bad or anything, and Elliott is a pretty interesting, pretty fucked up guy, whose head is an interesting place to muddle around in for a little while. The book is kind of a hybrid of Jonathan Ames-style daddy-issues-played-out-in-the-bedroom S&M (I know Jonathan Ames didn't invent that, he's just the one I know most who does it) plus a sort of true-crime thing, where Elliott closely follows and reports upon a high-profile trial of a creepy sick dude who may or may not have murdered his ex-wife. Neither half is really all that compelling, as far as pulling the reader through from page to page, but he does cover a lot of varied ground, some pretty fascinating, at least for its slice-of-life-ness. IDK, I liked it, I guess, but I didn't love it.before: I don't even remember why I wanted to read this book so badly, but DON'T TELL ME. I love going into a book knowing nothing about it, and I'm trying to suppress the tingly excitement now that it's actually in my hands (The Rumpus sold me a signed copy for $11, w00t!!), because the last book I was super-excited about was Aimee's Lemon Cake and it made me really really sad when it sucked.

  • Karen
    2019-05-16 11:44

    Is it weird to declare a memoir too self-absorbed?For a book that promises S&M, murder, and drug addiction, this was one of the flattest pieces of writing I've read in a long time. Elliot is neither particularly likable or loathsome. He's just there, rambling in this disorganized style with seemingly little effort built into developing a compelling narrative. I put it down after I skimmed the entire third chapter for something of interest and came up short.

  • Nine
    2019-06-05 16:11

    (This review - or whatever it should be called - was originally written for The Skinny magazine in Scotland)Stephen Elliott is hooked on Adderall. It’s basically speed in a capsule, prescribed by his psychiatrist. He takes too much; sometimes he opens up the capsules and snorts the powder. Sometimes he feels suicidal. He lives in San Francisco and has a string of often undefined, blurry relationships with women. Sometimes they tie him up, beat him, cut him.He thinks back to his youth as a runaway and tries to make sense of his adversarial relationship with his father. And he goes to Oakland every day for months to watch the trial of Hans Reiser, a Linux programmer accused of murdering his estranged wife. The Adderall Diaries was meant to be a true crime book but it turned into a memoir. True crime authors don’t usually let their own lives into the story, do they? But the end result here is truth, it’s honesty. Every writer has a personal reaction to what he or she documents; the difference is that Elliott acknowledges his, and allows it to take centre stage if it needs to. It’s refreshing that he abandons the pretence of keeping his subject matter at arm’s length. Hans Reiser’s story links in with his own story, with his father’s story, with other people’s stories: ex-girlfriends who’ve moved on to more conventional lives, childhood friends who overdosed on heroin or got sent to jail for murder. Hans Reiser may have been the starting point of the book, he may be its unifying thread, but in the end it’s not exactly about him.I’m on a short trip to York. I stay somewhere different every night. I get abuse for being American, even though I’m not, and a stranger gives me a lift in his car. One day I trek round the city aimlessly for hours, try to sleep on a park bench. I get off with a boy and it’s awkward and he feels weird and I do too, and then it’s too late to know what to say. I act like it isn’t the fourth anniversary of my mother’s death. And I read The Adderall Diaries and Elliott’s voice echoes and I see parts of myself, only parts, because just as there are places where Hans Reiser’s story connects with his, there are those where Elliott’s story connects with mine. One passage in particular remains with me long after reading it. Elliott is trying to have a 'normal' relationship: "reassuringly mundane", he describes it. An ex-lover tells him about a man whose desires are so masochistic he’s had to accept that he will probably never have a real partner; he must get used to being alone. Elliott excuses himself, bursts into tears in a supermarket. His relationship does not last.I discuss the book with a sex worker. She says, "Some of my clients are into such specific things. If they were queer, they’d have no problem being accepted. They’d find enough people who were okay with their desires. They’re good people and it makes me sad that it’s so hard for them." I think about how statistically so many more people are straight, and yet there’s a better chance of acceptance, broadly speaking, within queer circles. I think about how hard it must be for straight people who don’t have access to a supportive community.After my encounter in York I feel like I’ve just messed with someone’s boundaries but I’m not entirely sure what I’ve done wrong, or whether I’m imagining it to be worse than it really is. I wonder if it’s cost me what could have been a good friendship. All the conversation flowed so easily and then suddenly it slowed down and became unrecognisable, like a familiar tape being chewed up by a cassette player. Sometimes when that happens it feels like I have to gamble, say something or don’t, and no words I can come up with will fill the space adequately. It’ll always be either too much or too little. I’m not particularly looking for a meaningful relationship, or a future with someone; I’m content with the path I’m already on, which is full of surprises. My stories usually involve undefined relationships, people who are more than friends, and I have learned not to need to name whatever's going on between us. Yet all the same, I can taste Elliott’s despair when he considers that maybe he won’t find someone who’s really compatible with him.These are the things I think about while I’m in York, and reading The Adderall Diaries amplifies them. Elliott’s writing is raw, confessional, and addictive. It draws you in. He flits between the present and the past, but his timeline is sufficiently clear to avoid confusion. His life has been unorthodox, shall we say, from the start, but he doesn't seek to present himself as special, doesn't romanticise it, though he acknowledges the adolescent bravado that made it tolerable. I think about my own teenage years. I drank, but I didn't get into trouble and I didn't take any real risks. But I was sixteen the first time somebody told me they'd killed someone, when I felt something shift away from my comfortable middle-class upbringing, my drama-free home. I learned to just observe, to not ask awkward questions. If I'd asked those questions, would I still have been safe?There are many differences between Elliott and I. But I have complications going on too, and it’s a learning process, figuring out what I’m okay with, what it’s safe to express. Sometimes I feel disconnected. I’m looking at an uncertain future and I’m trying to be upbeat about it, to see it all as an exciting adventure. This is where I’m at, drifting, reading a book by someone who’s drifting too.

  • Logan
    2019-06-08 18:09

    Stephen Elliot is definitely Stephen Elliott's favorite subject, but that's ok, b/c he's really interesting. There's a lot I found fascinating about him: His constant seeking of SM relationships, yet not considering himself a "lifestyle player." His recollections of favorite scenes featuring play piercing, heavy floggings and canings, and his non-identification as a "heavy player." His background, similar to my own, which must have endeared him to me, and made me devour this book, somehow fitting it in between nursing board practice tests and classes, and managing to finish it in one day. I haven't read a book this quickly since I started college. It's also an unsatisfying true crime book, equally about Hans Reimer, local wife murdering Linux programming genius and socially retarded jerk and his bizarre best friend, Sean Sturgeon a dramatic paranoid with a passion for BDSM who became a born again Christian and fancied himself a gangster. While the profile of these characters is truly captivating, their story arc goes like this: ....................... .It just stops. Which is a huge bummer, so I dropped a star.Currently, I am planning to read "My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up.

  • Joshua
    2019-06-11 12:10

    This is an amazing accomplishment by Steve Elliott: to weave together examinations of himself and his history, to use the framework of the Hans Reiser trial as "permission" to analyze his writer's block, his Adderall habit, and his relationship with his father. And somehow while juggling all these narrative threads, he leads the reader on a cohesive journey.

  • Caitlin Constantine
    2019-05-23 16:06

    It occurred to me as I read this book that I had read something very similar a few months ago, a memoir called Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. Granted, there are obvious differences. Elliott is a masochistic drug addict in San Francisco while Williams is a Mormon naturalist in Utah. Yet they both managed to write very similar stories, ones in which they used these high-profile events outside of themselves to help them make sense of their relationships with their parents, their families and themselves. (I am willing to bet that this is the only time in history those two writers have been linked like this.)I liked many things about this book, particularly Elliott's writing style, which is so beautiful it makes my heart hurt. I read his newsletter for the Rumpus every day, and I love it for its sincerity and the daily dose of inspiration it sends my way. I think he is just terrific. I also liked reading about BDSM from the point of view of a male bottom, which I feel like I hear about very rarely.But sometimes I felt like he included some of the more sordid aspects of his life just because he felt like it, almost as if it was part of his masochism, without really having a reason to share them in the context of the story. I doubt I would have minded the inclusion of such reminiscences as much had I been able to place them within the larger narrative. As it was, the book veered into self-indulgence a bit more than I cared for. What saved it from the black hole of narcissism, so dense that nothing can escape from it (a la Emily Gould), is the fact that Elliott really is a truly gifted writer with enormous sensitivity. I can forgive a lot of sins for that single reason.

  • Sean Owen
    2019-05-29 18:46

    The Adderall Diaries is a mix of memoir and true crime. The author Stephen Elliott has a troubled history of drugs and abuse. Hans Reiser is accused of murdering his wife Nina who had left him for Sean Sturgeon. Elliott peripherally knows Sturgeon through the San Francisco BDSM underground. There is no body, but all sorts of evidence points to murder by Hans. Sturgeon confesses to murdering 8 people whom he refuses to name, though Nina is not one of them. This complicated mess linking the emergent Silicon Valley/San Francisco tech world to the old San Francisco red light world has lots of interesting potential. However Elliott squanders any opportunity to emerge with something coherent.There's a factual account of the trial, but this is sandwiched in the middle of the book. On either end of the trial is what amounts to Elliott's diary. He goes on dates, he takes adderall, he goes to book readings, he visits his therapist and recalls his troubled history with his father. This is all recalled in the flattest prose possible. The incidents are laid out, "and then this, and then this, and then this . . ." fashion that seems as if these sections are raw notes that were intended to be molded into something coherent during a revision process that never occurred.Elliott tries to tie it all together with sweeping statements about love and self-awareness, but by that point who really cares.

  • Kalen
    2019-05-24 16:47

    ** 1/2 I've been known to say that I'm not wild about memoir, and when I say that, this book is what I mean. The saving grace here was the interweaving of Hans Reiser's murder trial--the most interesting parts of the book. Elliott *is* a good writer and a good storyteller but I'm not shocked (and I *think* that's the goal...?) by his stories of parental abuse, drug use, and masochism. Nor are those stories particularly unique. (I don't mean to dismiss Elliott's pain and struggles--I just don't know that I need to read about them. I've read them before and most of us have lived our own versions of them.) What I did find interesting in our post-James Frey world, is the exploration of the theme: the unreliability of memory. Elliott's story is not linear and he readily admits throughout that he might not be remembering situations correctly. As a reader I appreciate that honesty and it does add an interesting element to the reading experience. I've had several conversations recently about why I don't particularly like memoir and the differences between memoir and autobiography. I'm glad I read this book when I did because it is helping me further form my thoughts on the topics, still a bit unclear.

  • P.
    2019-06-12 15:05

    As I noted in my review of Happy Baby, I read this book and that one in an overlapping fashion. Happy Baby is a fictional account of some of the same memories that Elliott presents here as memoir (I'm not doubting them but I don't really know how to phrase that). Which made it kind of like I had two Stephen Elliotts telling me the same story in different ways, simultaneously. The Adderall Diaries is a different treatment of true crime, or at least most true crime I've read, in that it doesn't present the crime it describes in isolation from the world. One of the reasons I read true crime accounts is obviously the gawking, speculative factor: how did it happen? how could someone do that? It really can't be resolved, usually--there are no good reasons for murder. And Elliott takes this part away and makes a better true crime book by investigating his own lonely violent past and his family and kind of situates the crime in the world. One thing that I got out of reading this was the sense of the world being nasty but survivable, instead of the usual feeling of pointless unresolvability (if that's a word) that comes from crime. Instead of "whoah, this happened!" It is: This happens. And this too.

  • Alana
    2019-06-12 14:07

    In late January of 2010, I attended a function at 826NYC in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Stephen Elliott's book, The Adderall Diaries had been published in September and this would be part reading, part memoir workshop. It was held on a Wednesday night in the back room at 826, behind the darkened Superhero Supply Store and in the brighter light of the tutoring center. I confess that I had no memoir-writing aspirations; I went mostly because Steve is a friend of mine. I try to attend his New York readings whenever I can, the way most of us with writer-friends do. We met when I volunteered for LitPAC, a literary political action committee that Steve started in early 2006 to get authors more involved in the political process. I helped run the NYC reading events, spurred to volunteer by a sense of uselessness which came with the knowledge that I'd been out of college for a year and hadn't done much outside of my regular job. The novelty of freedom from reading lists and being able to pick up whatever fiction I wanted had worn off (a bit), so I started a book club and helped promote progressive congressional candidates. Naturally. Only one of the candidates that we supported actually won her race, but it got a lot of people involved in the political process and I wound up with Steve as a friend, so I considered it a decent success. When LitPAC ended, Steve founded and still runs The Rumpus, a website with literary leanings that "focuses on culture as opposed to 'pop culture.'"We keep in touch vaguely (mostly through the illusion of keeping in touch that is Twitter) and occasionally grab coffee or a drink when he visits New York. We made out once, in a friendly, nothing-else-need-come-of-this kind of way. I had officially ended a significant relationship the day before and was scheduled to meet Steve for a drink that night -- he had told me that there would be several people and I needed to get out of my apartment. When I realized that he wasn't expecting anyone but me, I took the chance to relish my new-found singledom and as a result of this encounter, I popped up in one of this stories. I tend to remember my presence as occupying a single sentence, but I'm actually the subject of a whole paragraph. It begins with my red hair, as descriptions of me usually do, and our encounter sparks a deeper musing on the part of the author about his own sexuality. When I joke about my brief appearance in Steve's work and refer to it as my "sentence of fame," Steve will insist, "It's a very crucial sentence!" I told a few friends about this shortly before Steve released My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up, a book of short stories with a cover featuring a redheaded dominatrix in leather. My friends knew it was coincidental ("Um... it is, right?") but when Steve gave me a warm welcome at a Strand reading to promote the book, the whole audience kept shifting their eyes back to me. At the time, I tried to sink into my seat, but now I rather wished that I had a whip to crack them back to attention.I arrived a bit early for the 826NYC event and got to chat with Steve... mostly about his latest DIY book-tour that he wrote about for the New York Times, where readings were held in the living rooms of people who could promise at least twenty attendees. He presents a very unassuming and compact figure, with a pleasant smile and look to his eye that suggests he's always thinking. I don't think I've ever seen him in clothing where at least one article doesn't have a tear in it. It makes me want to buy him new shirts, but sometimes I suspect the rips might be intentional. His cuticles are always ripped, too, and their bloodiness always seems rather seemed apt, given his stripped down writing style and how he must pick at his own self to achieve such honesty in his work. It must be strange to meet people who already know so much about you... not the way movie stars' fans know details pried from their lives by gossip columnists and paparazzi. People who write memoirs offer their experiences up for dissection an discussion; they invite others in to share intimate and personal scenes. I'm never surprised that his events feature a largely female audience. Whether it's just that more women attend literary functions or that women are drawn to him like moths to an honest and communicative flame with a damaged past... well, perhaps it's both.Soon, the real attendees of the memoir workshop arrived and we settled in for the session. Steve told us that this particular two-hour memoir class was distilled down from a longer workshop that he'd been giving, so this would feature some key points, using his latest memoir as a touchstone. The book came free with the price of a ticket for the session, or Steve would let you trade it in for two paperbacks of his other work. He kept them all in a rolling suitcase and I had a feeling that if he had any other clothes for this trip beyond the ones he was wearing, they were stuffed in his backpack.Stephen Elliott has some very definite ideas about writing from personal experience. There might be other authors out there that are just as synonymous with the protagonist-author novel, but if there are, I don't know them. I have never found a writer to be so unflinchingly honest in his writing and still wind up on the fiction shelf. His childhood, group homes, drug use, politics, sexual proclivities... Steve offers them up to the reader in an effort to communicate and connect. He writes almost exclusively about things that have happened to him, and whether that gets labeled as fiction or memoir, you're aware that it's all pretty close to the bone. Consequently, he's had some time to develop opinions on this topic.Perhaps the most important lesson of the session is an obvious one, but one worth stressing, and it has to do with honesty. Where writing rules are concerned, Steve insists upon what he calls "radical honesty" in one's memoir. The main thing is to never intentionally lie to the reader. They'll figure it out and will not forgive you. Though if there's anything he's learned from his writing, it's that truth is a tricky thing. There's no such thing as one truth when it comes to memories. As an example, he spoke about his father and their very tumultuous relationship. They both remember specific events very differently, which led Steve to note that his father's "truth and memories were valid, even though they directly contradicted [Steve's:] memories." (There was also an important reminder to everyone about keeping one's success in perspective, as the memoir genre isn't generally a best-seller game and being a success consists of making maybe $20k a year. As a 38-year old man with two roommates in a one bedroom apartment and seven books to his credit, I hope they understood that he speaks from experience.)Within The Adderall Diaries, questioning the nature of memories is an overarching theme. There are multiple storylines at play in this memoir, connected to each other by their relevance to Steve and some other surprising links. Struggling with writer's block and an Adderall addiction, Steve started following a court case that involves a man accused of murdering his wife. Hans Resier was an American computer entrepreneur, lacking certain social graces and the ability to connect to many people. We all know a computer geek that merits this description, though few go on to murder their wives. While working in Russia, Hans met Nina through a dating company that bears a resemblance to mail-order bride systems. They had two children and then separated, when Nina supposedly left Reiser for his best friend, Sean Sturgeon. That relationship also ended and Nina began another, but her divorce to Reiser was never finalized. In September of 2006, Nina went missing after dropping off her children with Hans and he was the last person known to have seen her alive.The Reiser case provides the framework for the book, but this is not a true-crime novel. Not every storyline has to do with murder, but they all have to do with guilt and the loss of innocence. For most of us, murder is shocking enough, but in this story, there are far worse things that people can do to others. The Adderall Diaries is about the pain we inflict on ourselves and each other, addiction to more things than drugs, and the potentially futile struggle to ever know what someone else might be thinking. The tenuous link that the case has to Steve comes through Sean Sturgeon, with whom Steve shared a few girlfriends along with a similar presence in the bondage and sado-masochism sexual scene in San Francisco. Sturgeon purportedly confessed to eight and a half murders, but never gave any names and was never charged. When it comes to the question of why one confesses to a murder that one may or may not have committed... well, that gets us a bit closer to the crux of The Adderall Diaries, for Steve's father also may have committed a murder, though Steve can find no evidence of it. Did I mention that this novel is also about the scars our fathers leave on us by what they did or did not do? There's a lot going on here.People can recall events in different ways and come to different conclusions after reading the same book. This is a memoir told from a single perspective, but that just seems to make it all the more prone to leave people with separate insights. Stephen Elliott has been telling his story for a long time, but in this, his seventh book, I found a level of communication and conversation that has never before been reached. His writing style here echoes the Adderall: straightforward, focused, and quick... with jittery moments of introspective questions that come with the crash. Just as he is left gasping for breath, so are we -- not because of plot twists or action scenes, but because of the unflinching reality of his story and its confessional fragility, which makes for something that is heartbreaking, haunting, and lovely. Simply put, this is Stephen Elliott's best book to date and I cannot recommend it highly enough.If you haven't read any Stephen Elliott before, you're in for a very eclectic treat as you start through his wide-ranging list of titles. If you're in San Francisco or New York, you have a better chance of learning about memoir from the man himself if you're interested, or even just seeing a Rumpus function. Check out or his twitter feed (@S___Elliott) for amusing updates and to see if he ever offers this class again. Clearly, it contains a great deal more insight about the art of writing from one's life experiences. Otherwise, be sure to catch a reading of his, or a Rumpus event, as they're always entertaining. In the spring, Steve was back in New York to preside over a function at the Highline, something The Rumpus was hosting with Flavorpill that featured authors, comedians, and performers. When I arrived, he gave me a large hug and didn't set me down for a while, finally moving back to give me his somewhat sly and boyish grin that's never too far from his lips at events like this. He's in his element when he promotes communities of writers and artists. Steve started the evening off by reading, not from The Adderall Diaries, but a shorter and sexy piece before turning the stage over to Lorelei Lee and others, including Jeffrey Lewis and Michael Showalter. It all seemed a far cry from The Adderall Diaries, which I had only recently finished reading prior to the Highline event, and yet similar elements were there (though no Russian mail-order brides that I could spy).I did, however, feel like The Adderall Diaries had emphasized to me an important fact of the creative world, which still seemed embodied by several readings and performances from the evening. "Radical honesty" applies to more things than just memoir; it's at the heart of creative expression in most any medium. It's that kind of open communication that fosters interaction and leads to passions that stretch beyond ourselves while diving deep into ourselves. It takes one's story from being a monologue to a back-and-forth discussion, something worth sharing with others. And it's books like The Adderall Diaries and sites like The Rumpus that remind me I'll always find an enlivened and enlightening discussion when Stephen Elliott is as the helm. So check out The Adderall Diaries and let me know what you think. And if you keep reading his other work, I think you're smart enough to not assume every half-naked redhead is me. Just the one.

  • Michelle
    2019-05-19 12:59

    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. Elliot also wrote about Sylvia Plath's suicide, and Norman Mailers observational quote: "The private terror of the liberal spirit is invariably suicide and not murder."The side effects Elliot experienced from increased dosages of Adderall were troublesome: the anxiety, tension, anger, forgetfulness, yet he felt the medication gave him confidence, he was often unable to write without the meds. He referenced Elizabeth Wurtzel, at 40, a beautiful student in law school, writer of "Prozac Nation": who chronicled more memoirs of mental illness and addiction to pills.Elliot was aware of Nina Reiser's mysterious 2006 disappearance: a mutual friend had been in love with her, and reportedly sending her money. Strangely, his friend confessed to eight murders, all unproven; wanting Elliot to write about this crime. Nina's husband Hans, had met her in Russia, she was a beautiful gynecologist, wanting to practice in the US. Han's was a brilliant computer programmer who developed the Linux computer operating system. He and Nina married in 1998, and had two children. Han's was found guilty of first degree murder in April 2008, and led investigators to Nina's body: (for a reduced sentence), buried in a shallow grave, near a public park in Oakland, CA. This story was covered by various true crime media shows.This is a sensationally well written book, there are no fillers or gaps in the storyline that induce boredom. It was unfortunate the way Elliot's father treated him throughout, unaware of the problems and life long difficulties his son was facing. Elliot bore no ill will or need for revenge against his father, and always sought a meaningful connection. Highly recommended!

  • Jim
    2019-05-21 13:00

    Pay close attention to the title/subtitle. The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder. Well which is it: diary or memoir? The answer is tricky. Elliot doesn't do "or." Everything about him is multiple. It's a diary in the sense that it covers a very specific period of the author's life, but rendered in the style of a memoir where the relevant storylines are fleshed out in a highly disgressive manner. (The frame of the book is time-bound, the story is not.) I guess you could call it a meta-memoir, a memoir that is aware of itself as memoir (at one point Elliot writes about a discussion with an editor interested in acquiring the book), but Elliot's Adderall abuse hangs over the narrative like a cloud that calls any kind of self-awareness into question. That's not a knock on Elliot, that's just how addiction works. So what is it? Ostensibly, it's about a murder mystery that Elliot covers for a news outlet, but mostly its about the malaise of his days before, during, and after the trial. For all the discussion of his drug use, it's not a recovery memoir and it's not a kink memoir and it's not a memoir of his dysfunctional family (though it wants to be) because he's told that story many times already. He acknowledges that his relationship with his father is the most important relationship he's ever had. This relationship defines who he is as a person, a partner, and a writer. But was this by nature or by design?It's questions like this one that makes memoir-writing so murky and Elliot takes up different versions of it throughout the book. Who am I? How did I come to feel/not feel this way? Is my sense of self reliable or is it yet another one of the flawed and broken systems that have let me down my whole life? One of Elliot's subjects is a man who confesses to a number of murders he didn't commit, a charge Elliot lays on his father at the beginning of the book and confronts him about at the end. I can't help but wonder if Elliot wants the reader to draw similar conclusions about the author. Is Elliot copping to having made a false confession?Maybe. If we don't know the answer it's not because Elliot is trying to hide it from us. One suspects that he more than anyone would like to know this about himself. I'm not going to say The Adderall Diaries is honest or brave because I'm not in a position to know these things but it's certainly an arresting book. At times it feels as if Elliot is burning through his material so that afterwards there will be nothing left to say, forcing him to seek out new stories and stop looking for answers in places where they'll never be found.

  • Fran
    2019-06-10 18:10

    meh?this is a weird one for me. from the moment i started reading i knew i would finish it, but it took me much longer than a book of this length normally would. i think i like Elliott's voice, but i just didn't love what he was using that voice to write about. which is a tough thing to say when you're talking about memoir - hard to judge someone writing about themselves - but there was just a discomfort in the way it all came together that prevented me from ever really digging in and enjoying this too much.sometimes when i read books like this, i just don't trust anything the narrator says. going into it i knew he was a successful writer, with, by all accounts, a successful life, but when he writes about his life, you're just kind of like, what? how is any of this possible? how are you that fucked up? and that's not to say that i don't trust he was telling the truth, it just feels so anomalic that it's hard to relate.i also never really felt like the people in his life as he described them felt real at all whatsoever. and again, it's not his duty to make them feel real if it's non-fiction - i can't say he created unbelievable characters if this isn't a work of fiction... but then again it almost felt like BECAUSE it wasn't fiction, there wasn't a lot of attention paid to trying to describe these people in his life as anybody a reader could really picture. after reading about nina and hans and sean, i'm left thinking, how are these real people? how are these sociopathic losers people who truly exist? and i'm not saying that because i don't understand sociopaths. i do. but he describes these people in a casual way that sets them up to feel like regular-ish people.... and then they're so not. hans was a successful computer programmer, yet his stories and testimony felt like they legitimately came from a 12 year old thirsty for attention? it just didn't add up to me. it was tough. in a memoir or non-fiction like this, your author has to be the audience advocate, if he was really there, and this is his story. but it never felt like Elliott was much of an advocate for his reader. sometimes he'd give these jarring anecdotes about someone, and then just move on... and while it made the book interesting to read for me, it made it really hard to relate to. everyone felt like a clown of even after writing that i feel goofy, because this was such a personal and intimate book for him to write... and in that regard, i'm so glad he wrote it. but for me, it didn't make me feel much other than bouts of anxiety on his behalf. which is maybe good enough.

  • Todd
    2019-05-23 20:00

    The Adderall Diaries is an outstanding memoir and certainly one of the best I have ever read. Author and essayist, Stephen Elliott originally set out to write a true crime book focusing on the infamous trial of Hans Reiser, a brilliant computer programmer accused of murdering his wife. Stephen Elliot hopes to overcome the numbing writer’s block that has been obstructing his work. Instead of a mere crime book, suggested by a publisher, he produces a work so violently profound it will change the way the reader interprets his or her experiences forever. Tangled in this narrative is the bizarre confession’s of Reiser’s former best friend, Sean Sturgeon who confesses to eight unrelated murders – murders no one has ever heard of and for which there seems to be no evidence, his troubled relationship with his father and his need to be punished and sexually humiliated. The essence of his memoir less about the trial then it is about Elliott’s emotional and mental landscape during the month’s that follow as he looks at how memory and information shape the world we perceive. Deep into the body of his memoir, Elliot tells us clearly what he is about.We understand the world by how we retrieve memories; re-order information into stories to justify how we feel (Elliott, 202). Hans Reiser certainly demonstrates this when he takes the stand. So does the author as he marches brutally through his own life, past and present, taking on his Adderall addiction and predilection for BDSM and violent sex. Elliott finds himself justifying his own feelings and behavior in not too dissimilar a way as the accused murderer. Elliott is so goddamned honest it is breathtaking. His journalistic prose cuts like a serial killer’s finely whetted knife and rips the soul of his experiences out for him and the reader to examine, ugly, violent and stunningly beautiful all at once. If the reader expects a biography of sorts rest assured it is not that. This is no chronological reporting of the facts of the author’s existence, but rather a look at how he is has created the story of his life from his memories and that is the point of memoir. And anyway, the memories are the point. What we remember, and how we interpret what we believe to be true are what shapes who we are (Elliott, 202).Truth, it seems, is largely the creative use of memory and perhaps little more.

  • Nicola Waldron
    2019-06-12 16:45

    I didn't love this -- the prose is journalistic, which shouldn't come as a surprise since that's what Elliott does, but the subject matter is at times so intimate that this reader felt jolted between registers. I wanted to care more for the narrator than I did, and felt it was something to do with access -- or else, I suspected the worst, which is that Elliott's experiences are so damaging as to be irredeemable. I suppose it's hard to write about self-harm and underground sex without sounding sensationalist, and he tries hard not to go in that direction, but, well, like he says, sometimes it feels like he's just trying hard to write a story that will sell. It left a bad taste in my mouth about what gets published and what you have to do to succeed in the business as much as anything (not Elliott's fault), and even at times made me doubt the writing profession (he says at one point he sees he might have been happier/better served as a counselor, and I found myself agreeing). I felt grateful that this man who lived a clearly miserable childhood found writing to be some kind of way to freedom, but I'm not sure that was his intent, by which I suppose I mean I'm not convinced he was entirely in control of his material. Perhaps that's the point, and I missed it. Well written of course and certainly mind-expanding, but not really my thing.

  • River Laker
    2019-06-16 13:57

    With a title that includes Adderall, the drug derived from the "mother's little helper" of years back, and prescribed to millions, this book was guaranteed at least an initial glance. But that one glance is all that's needed to discover this is no self help book for those held under Adderall's sway.Loosely framed around a real life seedy San Francisco murder trial the author is covering for a nationwide TV network, this book emerges as a brave, unsettling, bizarre, sad and honest memoir of a type that you have likely never encountered before, and may never want to again. What you are reading is true and that is what does it. Elliott's truth is of a person spinning in space, of being a young teen without a safety net, of a young man clinging to objects, people, and situations that can only slip away. Elliott uses Adderall throughout, but in quantities that do not shock. The book is paced and organized in a stimulant-induced flavor which sometimes contributes, sometimes detracts, from this brave man's quest to understand himself. A thrilling read, thrillingly written, but not for the faint of heart.

  • Ben Fleck
    2019-05-24 19:12

    Okay... this book was just all over the place and weird and unrelatable and I just didn't know what to believe or care about. It's a "true crime memoir" but what in good god is actually true about it? It is a "memoir" so it's mostly that author just talking about his life, his desires, his fears, his day-to-day activities, his many relationships, and his jobs and problems. I would care more if it was relatable, but it just wasn't for me. It was just too ridiculous. I like reading things that I don't know about or relate to per se, but this was just all over the place and insane. A big meh...It just rambled on and on and finished and I felt no real conclusion or lasting feeling. There were interesting bits scattered throughout, but as a book overall.... it did nothing for me. I do want to try Adderall at some point though. Not gonna snort it though, sorry. Not for me.

  • Andrew Gray
    2019-06-07 14:49

    I read this book very fast because the first 100 pages really held my interest. However, I lost momentum in the second half. A problem for me is the way Stephen Elliott paints himself as an adderall addict; yet, he uses such tiny amounts. At his heaviest Elliott describes taking 25 mg. a day. My boyfriend has been taking 30 mg. of extended release adderall every morning for the past six years. My boyfriend leads an extremely conventional life; he is no strung out writer getting tied up and whipped by random women (at least, I hope he's not). I guess if Elliott feels his adderall use is out of control, it doesn't matter exactly how much he's using, but it is a little weird from my perspective. I was like, "5 mg.?" -- the amount Elliott takes at the start of the book -- "I could get a bigger rush from strong coffee."

  • Ellen
    2019-06-03 14:02

    I am reading Adderall Diaries for the second time; I was one of the 400 or so readers who read the advance copy before release.This book covers the period after the 2004 election, and Stephen has writer's block. He intertwines a family fable about a man his father may have killed, with an actual SF murder case he follows. Add to the mix that yet another man claims to have murdered eight people but wont say who they are - just that they deserved it. It is difficult to discern fact from fantasy on the part of the murder suspects. All is revealed in the end...My favorite of Stephen Elliott's books - it blew me away. I am impressed at the irony. Stephen has become more honest and introspective, yet he reveals that human honesty can be flawed at best. It all comes down to intention, and for the first time, it's clear his intentions are good.

  • Amy
    2019-05-31 12:00

    Update: Passages from this book haunt me at odd moments, so I upgraded it to five stars. This one will stay with you.I read this book slowly in order to savor it. Elliott is one of my favorite authors (and an amusing person to follow on Twitter). The murder case that the book is supposed to be about only provides about 1/3 of the content. The rest is autobiographical material from Elliott, who is more interesting than most any fictional character (for starters, he lived on the street starting at age 13, he was once a stripper, and his relationships with women all seem to involve masochism). I was dubious that he could tie his story in to the murder case, but it all came together in the book's last chapters.

  • Kate
    2019-06-16 13:51

    Pan. Elliott attempted to write a meaningful look into the sordid details of his addiction, his violent sex life, his traumatic past, and murder in middle America, but instead he wrote an untethered, unfocused, disjointed ramble which sounded like a process with no result. True, he does achieve his form of conclusion, of thesis, towards the end, but it wasn't enough to make the book worth it (or to pull it together). It was surprisingly boring for a book about such interesting subject matters.

  • Pauline
    2019-06-09 14:53

    The author of this book had a horrible childhood. He became a writer and got interested in a murder trial. There's not much introspection or analysis of the horrible childhood and the murder trial kind of gets left in the dust, and there's not much intertwining of the two. I'm not sure what the point of this book ends up being so it felt superficial to me.

  • lola
    2019-05-19 17:59

    Got this as part of an advanced reading contest thing from the Rumpus and ate it up for real. Can't wait to see it come out.

  • Chris Estey
    2019-05-19 15:49

    This guy kicks so much ass. Review soon at KEXP Blog.

  • Caty
    2019-06-05 17:47

    The most boring, self-indulgent piece of crap I've read in a while. Why do brilliant people I know love this author? Perhaps I should look into his earlier work?

  • Claire M.
    2019-05-30 18:48

    This is one of those books that you either love or are irritated by. Its disjointed structure is both its strength and weakness. I loved it, but then I'm partial to memoirs and this story occurs largely in the Bay Area, so there is that connection for me as well. Plus, this author talks about writing on a meta level that few authors ever get into. Plus I had my own crushing experience with writer's block. Plus, hello, I'm a crime fiction author and have a prurient interest in murder, and the Hans Reiser case was front and center news for months. Plus, I'm friends with a couple of Alameda County District Attorneys. I, too, shop at Berkeley Bowl, like Nina Reiser did. So there are a lot of connections here that probably would make me predisposed to like this book, even if it were a mediocre read.On the surface, this book is about Elliott's crippling writer's block and how a fascination with the murder of Nina Reiser and the people who surrounded her broke that block. The Bay Area is a big place, but it's actually got a small town dynamic to it, and it turns out that at least one key person who the police looked at as a possible suspect (Nina Reiser's ex-boyfriend) was known to Elliott through their mutual participation in the local S&M scene. That's just one of the coincidences that floats in and out of this narrative.What this book is really about is Elliott coming to terms with his relationship with his father. Elliott's fascination with Hans Reiser and the other people in the ugly interaction between Hans Reiser and his wife is like a knife to old wounds (which if you read the book you will appreciate the choice of words). This is one of those books where you need to go with the flow. The narrative isn't linear, it takes some mental energy to cobble together a coherent sense of his story, but the writing is so spare, honest, and bright that I didn't mind. Some people will mind. There's a fair number of words devoted to his S&M practices, but it's not gratuitous because it's integral to why he deliberately sabotages relationships that are important to him (surely a form of masochism) or cannot seem to accept love unless he has to pay a physical price. Which, yeah, seems pretty much a blueprint for his entire childhood.One thing that did strike me about this book was that he ended it with an attempt to reconcile with his father (who trashes his son's books on his amazon page). He says at one point, "...I realize that I love him and my relationship with him is the most important relationship in my life." Sadly, I think that's true. It's also the least important relationship in his life.I liked this book very much.