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Adderall Diaries [Paperback]

Stephen Elliott

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Book Description

Sept. 28 2010
In this groundbreaking memoir, Stephen Elliott pursues parallel investigations: a gripping account of a notorious San Francisco murder trial, and an electric exploration of the self. Destined to be a classic, The Adderall Diaries was described by The Washington Post as “a serious literary work designed to make you see the world as you’ve never quite seen it before.”

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (Sept. 28 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555975704
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555975708
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 13.3 x 1.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #180,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“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

About the Author

Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books, including Happy Baby, a finalist for the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award. He is also the founding editor of the online culture magazine

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Edgy, erratic, and often disheartening, yet an absolutely riveting read Sept. 10 2009
By L. A. Kane - Published on
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. The proceedings take a bizarre twist when Sean Sturgeon, Nina's former lover and Hans' closest friend, enters the picture. A BDSM (bondage and discipline, sadism masochism) aficionado who traveled in the same twisted circles as Elliot before becoming a born-again Christian, Sean not only confessed to eight (7  really) unrelated murders but also, according to Hans, played a considerable role in Nina's disappearance as well. As the trial began, her body had not been found.

Regarding Sturgeon, the author relates, "I've heard of him digging a knife in his own arm, carving RAGE, or standing naked in the middle of a room while several women strike at him with leather straps, his blood pooling at his feet. But, that was before he became a Christian. Now he goes to church every week, volunteers at the soup kitchen on weekends... I'm sitting across from a man who may be a murderer, but I can't tell." In an extraordinary coincidence, Elliot's own father also confessed to a murder in his memoirs that he may or may not have committed. Unlike fiction, truth really does not always have to make sense.

The truth of Elliot's life is that it has been crammed with heartbreak and misfortune. Tortured by a father who beat and intimidated him, he watched his mother slowly die from multiple sclerosis as a youth, emptying her urine bucket as she lay atrophied upon the couch too weak to care, before running away after she passed on. Shuffling amongst group homes, he lost four close childhood friends to overdose or suicide in six years. Ultimately he found release in drugs and violent sex, working as a stripper, a drug dealer, a professor, and a writer, among other things. While these experiences are nearly as painful to read as they must have been to endure, he has learned to transcend his anguish to write about relationships, love, and loss with brilliant, memorable prose. One sentence alone makes for poignant example, "But I don't know about Mike yet, the taste of gun like a mouthful of coins, his wife, five months pregnant with a second child, stopping in front of the door with no idea what awaits her inside."

Stephen Elliot is the author of seven books, including the critically acclaimed novel Happy Baby. His writing has been featured in mainstream magazines such as Esquire and GQ, and newspapers like the New York Times, as well as unconventional publications such as The Best American Erotica and Best Sex Writing. A guy who intimately understands depression, addiction, and life's bitter challenges, he tackles thorny subjects in interesting, meaningful, and, ultimately, enlightening ways. His newest work, The Adderall Diaries, is an unforgettable read.

Lawrence Kane
Author of [...], among others

Note: originally reviewed in the Sep/Oct '09 issue of ForeWord Magazine
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book that stands out among the glut of memoir Oct. 3 2009
By rob roberge - Published on
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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting memoir that has stuck with me.... Sept. 7 2009
By Paul Zakrzewski - Published on
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...
24 of 35 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE Sept. 3 2009
By Gladiator - Published on
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Depressing look at life July 9 2013
By Gary Gores - Published on
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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