A candid, bracing memoir of love, addiction and self-destruction.
When readers first meet Hastings (Falling Room, 2006), in the middle of the 1990s, he comes across with a bit of posture: a hepcat, we are to understand, like Richard Fariña’s Gnossos Pappadopoulis. But forgive him; he was fresh out of high school and about to be flayed by love and death. At college that autumn, he met Serala, a woman from the south of India, a rose with a full complement of thorns, a smoky romanticism and a whispery deepness that speaks of experiencing too much too soon in life. Hastings doles out her character as if skating backward, looking over his shoulder for the next patch of thin ice. There will be many, for Serala nursed and then fully blossomed into addiction and was seduced by suicide, which lurked even after her failed second attempt, when she realized that “we don’t get any stronger, we just become better liars.” Her story is as biting and claustrophobic as Nicolas Cage’s in Leaving Las Vegas, but it is drawn with great affection. Hastings became both her friend and her lover, and he is brutally honest in his assessments of her flaws and of their relationship. He also relates the many other travails he experienced during these years, including the many adventures abroad and on road trips at home, as well as a slew of other fraught relationships—familial and romantic—as Serala moved, now like a shadow and now a devouring presence, in and out of his life. “She enabled years of pleasant fog for me, some of which I regret,” he writes.
As elemental, lyrical and cringe-inducing a love story as they come.