The film director and writer revisits his life and earlier work in this grab-bag essay collection.
In The Adderall Diaries (2009) and other writing, Rumpus founding editor Elliott has written of his troubled youth as a runaway from an abusive father and a homeless addict as well as the aftereffects that have lingered through his professional life. In one essay the author recalls his stint as a successful magazine writer. “I had quit taking speed for the most part, but only because it didn’t work anymore,” he writes. “I couldn’t focus and I was running out of money and I kept making plans and then giving up. I checked out war zones and interviewed celebrities and politicians, but none of it mattered.” Some of the best-written and fully realized pieces might be classified among the none that mattered, while Elliott seems more emotionally invested with the confessional essays: those about his masochistic fetishes and his cross-dressing, his desire for dominant women that is something other than sexual desire, his obsession with suicide (the “it” of the title, or at least of the essay “Sometimes I Think About Suicide”) and his frequent attempts, his ambivalence about his writing career and his lack of commercial success with it. “I try to write, but the work isn’t going well,” he writes. “I wonder if I am still a writer, and if I’m not a writer, what am I?” Other pieces reference his writing of the very essay the reader is reading. Elliott is unquestionably a talented writer—see his 2004 novel Happy Baby for ample evidence—but in this collection, that skill is most effectively applied to reporting, in which he is as heavily invested as he wants readers to become.
Thirteen years of miscellaneous writing, some of it revelatory.