Stars, Cars and Crystal Meth by Jack Sutherland

I found this an uncomfortable book to read: addiction memoirs usually are.  But I’m glad I persisted.

Stars, Cars and Crystal Meth by Jack Sutherland

‘Accepting yourself is difficult.  Changing yourself impossible.’

This is Jack Sutherland’s memoir, as told to his father John Sutherland.  It’s a story of dependence, addiction, and recovery.  Okay, so what is new under the sun?  Is this particular story of addiction and recovery worth reading, and why?

I suspect that some of us will pick this book up because Jack Sutherland worked as a PA and bodyguard to R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, Ru Paul and Mickey Rourke.  And, yes, there are anecdotes about Jack’s life as a PA.  But the point of those anecdotes is to give a sense of the environment in which Jack worked rather than the lives of the people he worked for.  It also gives a sense of the pressures and unreality of that particular world.  It’s not hard to see how addictions can take hold.  In part, Jack Sutherland’s memoir reads like a confession.  The things he did, the drugs he ingested, the stimulus he needed, and the self-loathing he felt.  How very difficult it must have been for his father to write this down and try to make sense of it.

There were times when I felt I’d had enough.  I really didn’t need to read about any more drug-fuelled events, or chemically enhanced sexual encounters.  I had the picture:  Jack Sutherland was doing his best to annihilate himself.  But each time I came close to stopping and putting the book aside, I thought of his father.  How difficult it must be, as a parent, to hear the details of such incredibly self-destructive behaviour.  How difficult to see your child in the addict, how grateful that he has survived.  I kept reading.

‘Life goes on, even if you hate yourself.’

There are aspects of the presentation of this memoir that irked me:  the footnotes at the end of each chapter sometimes irritated rather than informed.  I sometimes found the detail overwhelming.  But, by the end, I was pleased that Jack had survived and that he and his father were able to write this memoir together.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Faber and Faber Ltd for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith