Archive for memoir

A Reason to Smile by Alan Kaufman

Posted in journal updates with tags , , , , , on February 15, 2012 by Tim Elhajj

The esteemed Alan Kaufman closes out our winter issue with A Reason to Smile. This story is an excerpt from Kaufman’s new book, Drunken Angel.

A Reason to Smile is wonderfully pointed criticism of American values, especially care for the poor, mentally ill and homeless. It’s exactly the sort of political, self-aware writing we love.

We visited San Francisco and heard Alan read from Drunken Angel and were suitably impressed. We’re so proud to present his work on Junk.

Later this month we’ll sit down with Alan to discuss writing and recovery.

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Barfly On The Wall by Joe Bonomo

Posted in journal updates with tags , , , , , on June 15, 2011 by The Editors

Junk presents, Barfly on the Wall, an essay by the esteemed Joe Bonomo. When this piece came across our desks, we jumped up and down and hugged one another. Okay, not really jumping up and down. But we were very excited.

Some writers romanticize the hard life of the addict. Still many other writers have lived this difficult life. And sometimes these writers are one and the same person. But not Joe Bonomo. He’s got a story all his own. We’re tickled pink that Mr. Bonomo has entrusted Junk with Barfly On The Wall, an extraordinary piece of memoir.

See for yourself.

Want a little Sugar in your Junk?

Posted in editor's corner with tags , , , , , , , , on June 9, 2011 by Editors

Junk loves “Dear Sugar,” an advice column published every Thursday in The Rumpus. We love “Dear Sugar” because it is well-written, funny, raunchy, and it often makes us cry. Sugar charms us with her confidence. She woos us with eff bombs tossed into the same sentences as endearments such as “dearie” and “sweetpea.” But we love her the most when she cops to her personal junk, telling us stories about her life in order to connect with us. Her stories inform her perspective, and more than any other single variable, perspective is what gives “Dear Sugar” its punch. That’s when the sparks really fly.

And we’re not the only ones who think so.

Recently, “Dear Sugar” appeared in The Sun literary magazine. In the June 2011 edition, The Sun published a compilation of four of Sugar’s columns from The Rumpus as a stand-alone essay. Talk about art meeting life!

Sugar is a pseudonym, the author’s identity a closely guarded secret. But we know that she’s married with two kids, has had sex with both men and women, done heroin, suffered abuse from her father, worked as a counselor with at-risk youth, and that she writes “like a motherfucker.” Her writing reveals her to be ageless: youthful in her indiscretions, ancient in her wisdom.

Meanwhile, Sugar is at work on a book-length memoir under her real name, which may mean that very soon, the identity of Sugar will be revealed to her many admirers. At Junk, we are excited to read her memoir, but, frankly, we’re just as eager to read next Thursday’s column, because even though her identity is currently protected with Guantanamo Bay level security (and her identity interests us just as much as the next reader), we believe Sugar tells us everything we really need to know about herself in her weekly column.

Want a little Sugar with your Junk? Read more here.

Junk Talk Interview with James Brown, author of This River

Posted in authors with tags , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2011 by Editors

This River

We had the good fortune to sit down with James Brown, author of the recently released This River from Counterpoint Press. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation. Jim Brown is one of the most thoughtful, humble, and articulate authors writing today.

Tim Elhajj for Junk Talk: I’m a writer and recovering addict. With the stigma of addiction being what it is, I thought long and hard before publicly revealing my problems with drugs. One thing that really impressed me with your writing was how candidly you discuss your own struggles with mental health, alcoholism, and hard drugs—all subjects that have an associated social stigma. Granted the stigma with some of these subjects has softened in the last, say, fifty years, but do you ever feel the weight of having revealed so much of your life in your writing?

James Brown: Yes, like you, I thought long and hard before I decided to come clean about my past in my writing, particularly with my first memoir, The Los Angeles Diaries. Years of alcoholism and addiction had robbed me of my sense of responsibility, ethics, morality, self-confidence and self-esteem. When I was finally able to collect a decent amount of sober time, just over a year, I came to realize that there was no story more important to tell than my struggle with addiction, and I felt that if I didn’t write about it, that I’d never be able to move beyond that part of my life. I needed to tell the truth in order to confront and better understand the nature of my illness, the same illness that destroyed my brother and sister. Their suicides haunted me, and still do. The revealing of my past was painful in the recounting, the remembering, the reliving, the recreating on the page. It wasn’t cathartic, though it did, in the end, give me a sharper perspective and greater understanding of my family and what tore us apart.

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New Junk Essay: Detox by Barry Grass

Posted in journal updates with tags , , , , , , on January 20, 2011 by Tim Elhajj

We have something really special this month from Barry Grass.

When we began discussing what we wanted from Junk, what sort of themes it ought to tackle, the editorial staff here in the lofty heights of Junk Headquarters had hoped to offer readers something different. Something about addiction you can’t find anywhere else. So when Barry’s lyrical essay showed up in our inbox, we were pleased. And there was much rejoicing. You think addiction is all about the addict, but that’s just not true. Never was. Like a pebble tossed into the lake, like a crack in windshield, addiction races outward, in ever increasing circles and fissures.

From the point of view of the virtuous professionals that keep the wheels turning in Detox, this month’s story opens our Winter 2011 issue.

The Last Street Before Cleveland by Joe Mackall

Posted in books with tags , , , , , on April 6, 2010 by Editors

The Last Street Before Cleveland by Joe Mackall

Every addict has a story about how they first got sober, just like every superhero has a story about getting their super powers, but it’s refreshing to find a story of an alcoholic that offers something different. The sordid drug related death of a childhood friend brings on an existential crisis for Joe Mackall, university professor and recovering alcoholic, who ends up returning to his working class neighborhood in Cleveland to search for meaning in life. Mackall captures the working class small town ethic (the story is billed as a memoir about class in America), but the way he describes his struggle with addiction is what really drew me in. Early in the work he lets the reader know he’s a recovering alcoholic. He hasn’t had a drink in over a dozen years (can’t remember the exact number). Mackall uses his addiction—the possiblity that he might return to drinking—to set the stakes. Although he doesn’t return to alcohol, he ends up in a pretty dark place with prescription drugs, made all the more dark by the threat of active alcoholism hanging over his head. The ending is satisfying and set up well: not unexpected but somehow still surprising. A great story.

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