Posted by: Ele Quigan | January 18, 2014

Requiem for a dream – Hubert Selby Jr.

As I’ve said a squillion times, I’m not one for depressing movies. Often quoted by friends as “the saddest movie of all time” I’ve stayed clear of Requiem. Curiosity always kills the damn cat right? So I decided to see what it was like to read.

It was incredible. I was for some reason really surprised at how well written it was? Metaphorical, frustrating, “believable characters” (I’m putting that in inverted commas because it feels trite against the subject matter…), following what feels like a demise into the inevitable. “We’ll never be like that”

They say you can never have a casual heroin habit.

And that you can never have a casual habit with longer term prescription opiates (weirdly this crosses over with the other book I read this week – The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt).

And while I’m not so sure about prescription Amphetamines – I can imagine it’s somewhat similar. A sense of clarity can be addictive, or a feeling of a different kind of love, or a different sense of self (or even a different sense of world), or even an easy way to relax, why else would people do drugs more than once?

The American Dream (or even just hope) is different for everyone. I think that’s the saddest part of the book was watching the hope dissipate and an ever creeping sense of despair as the book slowly circles into the point of no return.

I’ve managed to dig out an old article Hubert Selbert Jr wrote that was printed in The Guardian just as the film was coming out that goes further into why he wrote it, the inspiration.

I wanted a strong relationship between Sara and Harry to emphasis the nature of the problem. Most addicts are people with families, hopes, dreams, the same as anyone else. Most addicts are not living on the streets, stealing for a fix. Most are middle class people with love in their lives who go to their doctor and pharmacist for drugs. It could be said that Sara’s love was suffocating, oppressive at times, but it was also grounded in wanting the very best for her son.

Sara (the mum of Harry, one of the 4 key protagonists in the story) is the most interesting character in the novel. Dying to be thin is possibly an oversimplification, while she is living in abject poverty, but her ideals (to be on TV, to be famous) seemed to still have a lot of significance now.

There are addicts in all areas, I think the next emerging addict group could be the unprescribed students, parents, adults buying brain performance drugs, articles like this probably don’t help “Healthy people should be able to take the anti-hyperactivity drug Ritalin to boost brain power, a UK ethicist says.” Surely working at a higher level of brain power is addictive? why would you want to go back to a murky and befuddled mind? It may further put a separation between those who can afford “smart” drugs and those who can’t – and who know’s what other drugs might be on the horizon.

The only time I’ve had ritalin (which was about 10 years ago) it had the opposite effect, trying me out and making me feel more relaxed and chilled, which freaked me out. Isn’t that what it’s supposed to do to kids who actually NEED to be medicated? Did that mean there was something wrong with me? Am I the slightly hyperactive sometimes, kid who struggles with going to bed, always jumping between things and thoughts and constant rumination and a lack of concentration OH MY GOD DID I JUST CONVINCE MYSELF I HAVE ADHD?

I don’t think I have ADD/ADHD (I’m a catastrophist at heart so it was relatively easy to at least talk myself into it for a bit), but I do think there’s a bit of an issue with a society that medicates for all issues, isn’t that the beauty of modern medicine tho?

The only part about the book that really genuinely bugged me was the piece about shock therapy. I was incredibly anti it previously, I thought the idea of it was awful, and had visions similar to the book (being awake, tied down, unable to make it stop if you felt better), and I have been very much corrected by a Psychiatrist friend of mine. She’s mentioned there is absolutely a time and a place for it, you’re heavily sedated when it happens, and it can genuinely, honestly help in conditions.

Given the complexity of the brain, and squishing down my own personal media-driven prejudices – that’s got to make sense right? (why am I getting the comparison between the brain and jumpstarting a car? that’s the only analogy I can think of…)

Another interesting side part (beyond the constant search for the ever reducing quality of high) was the concept of a full drug drought. I remember reading about the Heroin drought of 2010/2011 – it’s worth reading about

Guardian article (I think one of the first mainstream media to talk about it)

BBC article about the research post the drought

And to close – a slightly different drought – caused by war. I wouldn’t normally close with the words of someone else, but given a story about addiction, desire for the next hit, despair and desperation, it says more about addiction than I could. Do take time to read his whole post tho – it’s incredible.

A brilliant post from a user experiencing a different drought

I crawled into bed and cried. I was ill and so out of sorts I just cried at the world, and for the first time really cursed the fucking war, and even more passionately than the humanitarians, I wanted an end to all the bombing and devastation. But my tears were not for humanity, they were for me. And personal tears are always more genuine than any others. All tears are personal. Really.


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