“The third panel in Brown’s masterwork triptych on addiction from youth to sixty, Apology to the Young Addict also accomplishes at last a staggeringly rare mercy–on the ghosts of memory, the ravages of disease, the brutal hypocrisies of religion, and finally–most shockingly–on himself.” –Gina Frangello, author of Every Kind of Wanting and A Life in MenHusband, addict, father, skeptic. Now sixty–with years of sobriety under his belt–the celebrated author of The Los Angeles Diaries and This River returns with his most moving work yet. James Brown writes about finding a new path in life while raising three sons, making peace with the family whose ghosts have haunted him, and helping the next generation of addicts overcome their disease. Opening with the tragic tale of an elderly couple consumed by opioid addiction and moving through the horrors of a Las Vegas massacre to the loss of a beloved sponsor, these essays draw on Brown’s personal journey to illustrate how an individual life, in all its messiness and charm, can offer a blueprint for healing. Haunting and hopeful, Apology to the Young Addict is a reinvention of the recovery story and a lasting testimony from the master of the modern memoir.
Apology to the Young Addict
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JAMES BROWN is the author of the critically acclaimed memoirs The Los Angeles Diaries and This River. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship and the Nelson Algren Literary Award in short fiction. Brown's work has appeared in GQ, The New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Ploughshares, New England Review, and many other publications. He lives in Lake Arrowhead, California.
One of Big Other's Most Anticipated Small Press Books of the Year "A dark yet hope-infused look back at the long-term transformations fueled by an addict's recovery . . . Memorably well crafted, tight, and searing . . . Tough, meditative, realist prose creates a worthy addition to the crowded field of (post) addiction memoirs." --Kirkus Reviews "Incredibly powerful and moving while never being sensational or preachy. Readers who've appreciated Mary Karr's and Caroline Knapp's memoirs should give James Brown's writing a try." --Booklist "James Brown's Apology to the Young Addict may be the closest linguistic facsimile to what it's like to be in recovery: haunted, growing old, somehow not yet world-weary, but always a razor's breadth--one day at a time--away from chaos. The third panel in Brown's masterwork triptych on addiction from youth to sixty, Apology to the Young Addict also accomplishes at last a staggeringly rare mercy--on the ghosts of memory, the ravages of disease, the brutal hypocrisies of religion, and finally--most shockingly--on himself." --Gina Frangello, author of Every Kind of Wanting and A Life in Men "The undeniable force of James Brown's writing is its ability to concentrate and to distill. His language is pharmaceutical grade, has a devastating purity, and unlike many of the world's great gritty writers--Céline, say, Bukowski--Brown's writing makes no romantic claim, finds no virtue in degeneracy, sounds off no been-down-so-long-it-looks-like-up-to-me anthems to lull the reader. This is writing with the compulsive energy of an addict, and it refuses to traffic in bromides. Apology to the Young Addict is the last in a trilogy that started with The Los Angeles Diaries and continued with This River. Each is a reckoning with the misery of mourning, and each is a celebration of a life. Rarely is writing so hard-won, and rarely are the rewards this powerful." --Michelle Latiolais, author of She "In Apology to the Young Addict, James Brown has written a complex illustration of our human flaws and our chances at redemption. It's a book of perspective, empathy, and wisdom for addicts and anyone who's ever loved them. And it's a book that, while never preaching to the reader, will help an enormous number of people." --Rob Roberge, author of Liar
"James Brown's Apology to the Young Addict does not just breathe new life into addiction writing, it does so with enough grace, heart, and grab-you-by-the-throat style to transcend the genre and qualify as genuine literature. These beautiful essays will serve as balm for survivors of the opioid crisis, those still struggling to make it out, and pretty much anyone else trying to stay sane in these insane times. Prose-wise--with all due respect to his late namesake--James Brown has earned his title as the Godfather of Junkie Soul." --Jerry Stahl, author of Permanent MidnightPraise for This River "This River continues where Brown's first memoir, The Los Angeles Diaries, left off. It's molten stuff, the story of his efforts to control his river of rage." --Los Angeles Times "A beautifully crafted and intensely moving book. Without artifice or pretension--without false moves of any sort--James Brown goes after the biggest literary game: death, love, children, degeneration, hopelessness, hope. I read this book straight through, in one spellbound sitting, and I will read it again in a week or two. It is so good." --Tim O'Brien, author of July, July "When you put this book down, trust me, you will think about it for along time." --Robert Olmstead, author of the national bestseller Coal Black Horse and winner of the Chicago Heartland Award "James Brown is one of our most accomplished writers, and this brilliant memoir is among the finest of its kind." --B.H. Fairchild, author of The Blue Buick "This book is a must read for any clinicians dealing with patients with substance abuse and dependency issues and also for patients and their families." --Ana E. Campo, MD, Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment "James Brown's provocative, beautifully written and gut wrenching memoir illuminates a life rich in those elemental passions that govern our lives--anger, fear, depression, death, and love. Sometimes tender, sometimes manic, but always wise and insightful, This River never falters in the muscularity of the writing, all of it filled with riveting details that kept this reader turning the pages as fast as he could read them. Mesmerizing from beginning to end. Unforgettable." --Duff Brenna, author of Minnesota Memoirs "This is a harrowing and beautiful memoir, shot through with excess and violence and shocking, heart-stopping compassion. James Brown renders his extraordinary life in tight, muscular prose, sparing neither himself nor the reader the hard lessons of addiction and recovery. The result is an unforgettable book, stripped of irony and pretense, that lays bare the darkness--and the light--in all of us." --Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This "Sequel to Brown's indelible The Los Angeles Diaries, this cycle of linked narratives is equally powerful and complete in itself. Brown's profoundly authentic story of Brown, survivor of sibling suicides, drinker, user, writer, teacher, father, husband, is as fully imagined as it is unsparing. In speaking from the edge of loss, Brown's eloquence recalls Robert Lowell's 'my eyes have seen what my hand did.'" --DeWitt Henry, author of Sweet Marjoram "James Brown is a truth teller and here again he does not disappoint. His writing as always is lucid and unflinching. In laying bare his own soul, he makes of his work an act against loneliness, shot through with a sad wisdom." --Kem Nunn, author of Chance "This follow-up to his first memoir, The Los Angeles Diaries, highlights Brown's literary prowess . . . This is dark, but also loving and literary." --Library Journal "Beautifully written, this is clear-eyed truth-telling by a man coming to terms with the best and worst in himself and others." --Booklist Praise for The Los Angeles Diaries Named a Best Book of the Year by Publisher's Weekly, The Independent, and the San Francisco Chronicle "It's the balance of agony and grace, of course, that makes life so ferociously interesting. Brown has perfectly captured that balance in this unpretentious, very profound book." --Carolyn See, The Washington Post "Each [chapter] shows the toolmarks of the well-crafted short story, carefully and even lovingly shaped and polished until it shines . . . The stories amount to a memoir of stunning intimacy and unforgettable impact." --Jonathan Kirsch, Los Angeles Times Book Review "This gemlike collection . . . materializes in such delicate strokes that the emerging theme becomes one of almost miraculous forgiveness, any pain and rage all but hidden between the lines." --San Francisco Chronicle (Best Books of the Year) "As tragic as Brown's life has been, the memoir displays neither pathos nor self-pity but elegiac wisdom . . . How moving is Brown's The Los Angeles Diaries? While double-checking the quotes and facts, I simply gave in and reread it again, struck even more by its pain, its beauty and its craft." --Deirdre Donahue, USA Today "The 'Kennedy curse' looks like a garden-variety hex compared with the dysfunction passed down among Brown's alcoholic clan. When the acclaimed Lucky Town novelist was 5, his embezzling mom dragged him along to an arson; both his siblings committed suicide in middle age; Brown himself abandoned his wife, kids, and college English students for days to binge on booze and meth. If that's not bleak enough, consider this memoir's really depressing scenes . . . Hollywood script meetings. It's all riveting and self-pitiless, but two passages are priceless: a devastating imagining of the post-recovery shame that led his sister to dive into the bone-dry L.A. River, and his nightmarishly funny battle of wills with a potbellied pig that was supposed to salvage his marriage but instead helped demolish it." --Chris Willman, Entertainment Weekly "James Brown's account of his turbulent childhood, substance abuse, and life as a struggling writer is as guileless and real as they come. Los Angeles looms large in this memoir, taking on different personas as Brown's story shifts from innocence to experience." - "Ten Essential Books that Capture the Pulse of L.A."- LA Weekly "This complex memoir defies pat interpretation. Brown's prose is direct and confessional as he . . . fuses stark, poignant tales of woe and authorial insight without descending into self-pity or self-indulgence." --Seattle Weekly (Best Memoirs of the Year) "This is a ghost story, and James Brown should be dead. That he is not is a remarkable tale of perseverance in the face of staggering loss and tragedy." --Charles Feldman, CNN "Remarkable . . . Rises above the commonplace to the true art of comprehended pain . . . the hallmark of Brown's prose is gravitas. His truths are definitive." --DeWitt Henry, The Boston Globe "The Los Angeles Diaries is one of those rare memoirs that cuts deeply, chillingly into the reader's own dreams. It is a dramatic, vivid, heartbreaking, very personal story of human responsibility and guilt, of alcoholism, of suicide, of marital struggle, of the uncertainties and ambiguities of a writer's life in modern America. The book is cleanly and beautifully written, and it's also incredibly moving." --Tim O'Brien, author of July, July "The Los Angeles Diaries is terrific. It's one of the toughest memoirs I've ever read, at once spare and startlingly, admirably unsparing. It glows with a dark luminescence. James Brown is a fine, fine writer." --Michael Chabon, author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, winner of the Pulitzer Prize "Profound . . . unsparing and clear-eyed, a heartbreaking story, and yet oddly inspirational, the tale of the last man standing." --Janet Fitch, author of The Revolution of Marina M. "The best addiction memoirs reflect on the running and gunning with just the right amount of thoughtful remove, which is exactly what makes James Brown's The Los Angeles Diaries so important. The title is deceptive in that there's nothing diary-like about it: No diary could be this elegantly crafted and tightly woven. Structured as a series of standalone vignettes, the book has more than enough material to justify a woe-is-me stance--an arsonist mother and suicidal siblings, to start with--but a clear-headed voice that mines the subject matter of regret while refusing to ever wallow keeps the narrator out of self-pity. Underread and underrated, Brown's vibrant imagery and nimble storytelling elevates The Los Angeles Diaries into a league all its own." --The Fix, selected as one of the Ten Best Addiction Memoirs "James Brown, novelist, college professor and screenwriter, writes straight up in lucid, unadorned prose. This book is about humanity and love, not just addiction." --The Hartford Courant "The Los Angeles Diaries is spare and unsparing, a beautifully written account of how a child can process anger and pain and turn it into art, self-destruction and redemption. Brown's book is a moving account of addiction and recovery and a signal that a talented writer is back and at the top of his game." --The Oregonian "Searing, gut-churning but ultimately luminous . . . The Los Angeles Diaries reads like the best--and darkest--fiction . . . Uncompromisingly bleak yet surprisingly beautiful, a passionate testament not only to how one can survive what should shatter and sunder irreparably, but that one can survive and in surviving, begin anew." --The Baltimore Sun "The book's extremely clean and fluid prose is a pleasure to read. With The Los Angeles Diaries, Brown has written a disturbing, sad, but ultimately uplifting tale." --The Denver Post "Brown is a fine writer. His prose is lean and crisp and the heartache is written between the lines, like the loaded space in a pregnant pause... The writing is crystalline." --Rocky Mountain News "In this uncompromising memoir, Brown has the skills to step outside of his life and write clean, driving sentences about characters and situations as rich as the finest fiction." --Book Sense "Unflinchingly honest, beautifully written and utterly heartbreaking, The Los Angeles Diaries is a haunting and powerful tale of love and loss." --Ink "I've never read a better story about addiction. It's also one of the best modern autobiographies I've ever read, addiction notwithstanding . . . Inspiring, witty, and bleak, James Brown's book will appeal to anyone with an interest in addiction--and anyone who enjoys tough, spare prose." --Dirk Hanson, author of The Chemical Carousel "Novelist Brown (Lucky Town; Hot Wire; etc.) mines the explosive territory of his own harsh and complicated life in this gut-wrenching memoir . . . Brown's genius compels readers to sympathize with him in every instance. Juxtaposed with the shimmery unreality of Hollywood, these essays bitterly explore real life, an existence careening between great promise and utter devastation. Brown's revelations have no smugness or self-congratulation; they reek of remorse and desire, passion and futility. Brown flays open his own tortured skin looking for what blood beats beneath and why. The result is a grimly exquisite memoir that reads like a noir novel but grips unrelentingly like the hand of a homeless drunk begging for help." --Publishers Weekly "Brown's blackout days make for a darkly alluring read. This is the kind of book that becomes an underground classic for all the wrong reasons." --Booklist "Life-affirming . . . An extraordinarily gripping, honest, and somehow uplifting tale. It seamlessly moves from bleak to beautiful . . . A darkly bright, hugely compassionate, and oddly redemptive story of loss and failure, guilt and addiction." --The Independent