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Richard Hell Knows Smack

Richard Hell is well known as being one of the originators of the punk music movement with the bands Television and Richard Hell and the Voidoids. He has consistently adopted an anti-drug posture. His position seems to be based on experience rather than lack of experience, however. Young Richard Hell Whether the experience is simply having been close to many people who hurt themselves with their drug use, or actual use himself, is unclear. Hell has always been cagey on the issue.

Regardless of Hell's experiences with drugs, he understands what it is like to be a junkie. In his novel Go Now (check out the Richard Hell website) he describes the experience of doing heroin after having stopped for about a week.

The drug does what it always does. Gives me a big kiss and takes me in its arms and holds me and gives me all aid and comfort, says welcome back, you look great and everything's OK now we're together again. And what does it want in return? Ten, twenty, sixty, eighty bucks a day and whatever other efforts it takes to search out and acquire itself, and then every second of my time.

Hell's novel is not great. This is true because it doesn't have much in terms of narrative momentum—you aren't pulled through the novel. But the language is beautiful; the novel reads like a long prose poem. As such, you can pretty much read any chapter at random and enjoy it.

In Go Now Hell capture the essence of what it is like being a junkie. It is well worth reading by anyone who is interested in the lives of junkies.

by Dr. H © 2002


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