'LUDES by Benjamin Stein

'LUDES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The pathetic but largely unaffecting ""true story"" (""heavily"" disguised) of a Quaalude addict--perfect material for a New York Magazine feature, here puffed out to book length with repetition, pretentious imagery, and maudlin rhetoric. Stein (Dreemz) first meets handsome, youngish Lenny Brown in N.Y. in '76--a money-obsessed, would-be tax-shelter salesman, ""a lost soul drifting alone within his own personality . . . Lenny was the most basic me, and so I had to like him at first and then love him."" And things finally seem to click for Lenny and beloved wife Linda when he's offered a hot job selling real-estate tax shelters out in L.A.: there's soon a big house, a pool, lunches at Ma Maison. But ""inside him was a shark of self-loathing and self-hate. If that shark did not get fed a daily dose of achievement and money, it would become hungry for Lenny's soul, for his life itself."" So, when the bottom temporarily falls out of the real-estate-shelter biz, Lenny collapses, turning (with Linda) for the first time to drugs, to Quaaludes: ""Nothing hurt. . . Life for them was effortless and frictionless, like life in a dream."" Their days soon revolve around the acquisition of pills--from sleazy, $200-per-prescription M.D.s, from low-lifes. After seeing a Quaalude fatality, however, they make a brief, clean break. (Or, in Stein-ese: ""From out of the Babylonian Captivity, across the parted Red Sea, into the land of milk and honey. . ."") But the attempt at quiet living fails; the ""deals"" beckon again; so do the 'ludes; Linda has a drug-related accident and miscarries; Lenny totally loses control; Linda leaves him; Lenny winds up dead in a ""drug-related shooting."" And Stein pounds out his hackneyed moral again and again: ""Lenny Brown, I thought, is not really so rare. He is only an American, one of many, all thinking that they can achieve the impossible by running a little faster, making a little more money. . . ."" Unfortunately, this pseudo-Everyman approach backfires here: we never know Lenny and Linda well enough to care much about them or to accept Stein's romanticization of ""a man-child who struggled constantly to keep from being buried under the weight of cruelty. . . ."" And the constant editorializing deprives the story of even a basic journalistic power. Still: some will want to read this, if only for the L.A. drug/glitz/squalor details.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's