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PERMANENT MIDNIGHT by Jerry Stahl

PERMANENT MIDNIGHT

A Memoir

By Jerry Stahl

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-446-51794-1

 The itinerary of a hack writer's nightmarish journey through junkie hell. Stahl sets the prevailing tone with his prologue, in which he not only wakes up in a blood-soaked diaper after having a billiard- size cyst excised from his scrotum, but he also recalls shooting up heroin while his wife gave birth in the same hospital. Any readers remaining after this sunny preamble should know not to expect inspirational uplift. Stahl chronicles his writing career, which almost from the start found him contributing to glossy porn magazines. An editorial posting at Hustler took him to Los Angeles, where, after a stint in porn-film production, he began writing for a succession of TV series, including Alf, thirtysomething, and Moonlighting. Along with his successful career in TV he cultivated an intravenous narcotics habit that eventually left him destitute, virtually unemployable, and less than sane. Even in the extremity of his addiction, physically and creatively ravaged, he was still occasionally called up for television projects, and the grueling embarrassment of his attempts to feign sobriety make for excruciating reading. With an incessant, bitter jokiness that suggests Last Exit to Brooklyn as written by Paul Lynde, Stahl treats us to bathrooms splashed with blood, dawn excursions to the ghetto to score heroin, several agonizing attempts to kick the habit, scads of grindingly depressing solitary fixes, and an indistinct epiphany during the L.A. riots, which coincided with what was apparently his final withdrawal. The author recalls his lousy childhood, his father's suicide, his mother's furious neuroses, his stifled ``serious'' aspirations as a writer, and his disastrous marriage, suggesting that his entire life was so rotten that drug abuse fit right in, but his lifelong intentness on insuring his own misery remains a conundrum. Like a horrible accident, the memoir morbidly compels attention, but Stahl's self-excoriating wisecracks often trivialize the true ghastliness of his experience, reducing it to exploitation-flick flatness. (First serial to Esquire)