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|Phil Shoenfelt||Junkie Love|
|2001 Twisted Spoon Press, Czech
2007 Ebury Press/Random House, England
images from left to right:
"Junkie Love" edition by Twisted Spoon Press
"Junkie Love" edition by Ebury Press
|Set in Camden Town, London, during the late
1980's, Junkie Love is a study of addiction and loss, a nihilistic love story for the
blank generation. Focussing on the psycho-pathology of addiction, it takes a look at what
happens when hope disappears and hedonism turns to despair and self-loathing.
The characters in this tale are rootless and adrift, dislocated from their pasts with no belief in the aims and aspirations of a materialistic society. Instead of turning to politics or religion, they embark on a course of self-destructive sex and manically obsessive drug abuse, a journey to the end of the night from which many do not return.
Largely autobiographical and leavened with irony and perverse humour, Junkie Love follows the protagonist into the heart of this morass to the point where corruption and dissipation coalesce into something approaching transcendence, and a decision must be taken as to whether life is worth living, or not..."
Winner of a Firecracker Alternative Book Of The Year Award for 2002!
|Junkie Love is available @|
|Twisted Spoon edition||Ebury Press edition|
|Amazon D||Amazon UK|
|Glitterhouse Mailorder D||Amazon D|
|SCB Distribution USA|
|Phil Shoenfelt about "Junkie Love":|
|"I wrote Junkie Love shortly after
moving to Prague in the mid-1990's. This was about eight years after finally kicking the
habit in August 1988.
Enough time, I think, to fully absorb the experience and to get it into perspective. I'd been addicted, with a few short breaks, for much of the previous eleven years, mainly to heroin but also to methadone, a far more sinister drug and much more difficult to kick.
In New York, where I lived from 1979 to 1984, I'd been very much into heroin-cocaine cocktails (speedballs), shooting up as many times a day as money would allow. The smack in NYC was often cut with barbituates, so by the time I did finally manage to stop my body was quite toxic. What I try to examine in Junkie Love is what I'd call the psycho-pathology of addiction, and I think it is this aspect that differentiates it from the plethora of other books on the subject. In this, I'd put it closer to De Quincey's nineteenth century classic, Confessions Of An English Opium Eater, than, for example, Trainspotting. Every addict in the world knows that what he is doing is stupid, and that he is killing himself slowly, yet the lure of the drug is so powerful that he finds it impossible to escape. I take a look at this syndrome and try to understand it in the light of my own experience. It's
possible that there is such a thing as genetic pre-disposition to one type of addiction or another, whether cigarettes, alcohol, cocaine or heroin.
But to quote the James Brown song, Heroin is the King of all habit-forming drugs, and no other habit is as difficult to shake. The euphoria it induces
seems to be linked to extreme sexual experience, and in most users the drug does eventually kill the sex drive. But in the beginning the heroin rush and the post-rush glow are very much in the same ballpark as the post-orgasmic glow of intense sex. The feeling of transcendence and the
feeling of escape from mundane reality aren't so different, and both flood the system with endorphins, the group of neurotransmitters that occur
naturally in the brain. But whereas most people can return from the post-orgasmic plateau and continue to function in society, the hard drug
addict craves for ever greater extremes and refuses to conform to social expectations. In other words, the so-called Reality Principle is rejected
in favour of the Pleasure Principle. In a society based upon the former, this is obviously going to lead to problems for the addict. In Junkie Love,
all such ruminations are within the context of the narrative, and are often undercut with irony and other distancing effects.
Basically it is a love story involving two people who were too fucked up to ever really stand a chance."
|Quotes for Junkie Love|
The Bad Seeds
author of "And The Ass Saw The Angel"
|"Junkie Love - A nice, nasty
read. I enjoyed it a lot..."
|"This book is tough love.
Junkie Love shoots straight for the gut, puts the picture in your face, what a junkie
faces from moment to moment, through each night, through each day. That Phil Shoenfelt,
the author, is well today to tell it, is a triumph of a soul in its struggle to the light.
The art of Jolana Izbická draws a haunting line through Phil Shoenfelt's story, ending
with a spiral upward."
|"Filled with refreshing
graveyard humour, Junkie Love is a gripping soldier's story from the times when a junkie's
worst worries were himself and the badly cut drugs."
Angels Of Light / Swans
author of "The Consumer"
|"Shoenfelt brings a sure,
cold, almost empirical precision to his descriptions: ever-descending scenes of brute
squalor, self-inflicted wounds and abjection. Ultimately though, what's revealed is an
underlying compassion for the characters in Junkie Love, their helplessness in the face of
their obsessions, and their misguided, naked need for transcendence and love. A trenchant,
cautionary tale that successfully avoids the self-righteous tone of the
singer / songwriter
|"You can always tell a good
book by the first line - this is a good book! I first read PS's description of his 1980's
Camden Town lifestyle in Prague some five years back and was immediately struck by the
quality of his writing. In a way, for the subject matter, this book is as important as
William Burrough's Junkie.
Too much writing about heroin addiction merely enforces the romance of the drug but Shoenfelt also reveals the darker side of addiction. Not in the grotesquely tainted style of an Irving Welsh but with far greater purity. Some of the scenes depicted are remarkably sleazy but the author never falls into cliché. If this book suffers through anything it's only in its bad timing at appearing after such an overrated book as Trainspotting. If nothing else Junkie Love would make a far better movie.
The thing about a junkie lifestyle is it may be sordid and at times unspeakably sleazy but it's still a form of living that is at odds with the way civilisation expects us to behave. When you're a junkie all that really matters is the next fix and how to get it. As Shoenfelt points out the drug is, "For nihilists and hedonists - for people who have either given up trying to make sense of existence... or who don't give a shit about a future they can't see or believe in." It's also a drug that artists have sought solace and inspiration in through the years - it will continue to be so.
With his music, especially on his last two albums, Blue Highway and Dead Flowers For Alice Shoenfelt has conjured up a place all of his own. Junkie Love joyously shares the same territory. The best book about heroin since Junkie. An essential read!"
|Bizarre Magazin #55, 2002
||"A modern evocation of classic
fin de siecle literature, complete with classy illustrations and parchment-style paper.
This love affair between a man, a woman and a needle goes the same tender, heartbreaking
was as Hubert Selby Jr.'s Requiem For A Dream. From the warm glow of kindred spirits
binding with the chemical mix of love and heroin to the suppurating end, Junkie Love is as
beautifully written as it is presented."
||"Beautiful. A great story of
drugs, sex and trying to figure things out in our fucked up world ... neurotic
illustrations depicting the psychosis going on in the character's head ... complimenting
the written word."
Apple Of The Eye
|"Junkie Love is an
autobiographical book gifted with great narrative power ... Shoenfelt succeeds in handling
his material beautifully. He reconstructs, scene by scene, a lattice of real events from
personal memories, most demanding in their rendering because of their reference point:
||"A fine, gutsy, spare
rendering of the drug underworld."
|Prague Post 12/2001
||"Shoenfelt is at his best when
describing the psychology of addiction and recording the pains of withdrawal."
review by William Thompson
|"The tale Shoenfelt tales is a
familiar to anyone who's read 'The Story Of Junk', 'Junky', 'Candy', 'How To Stop Time',
namely 'how I fell in and out of love with heroin.' Shöenfelt is very good on the details
- you are right in every awful place he shoots up; unsparing and unsentimental about the
attractions of heroin; the concactenation of pleasure and humiliation; difficult personal
insights addiction can bring and the fact that doesn't redeem the misery you're making of
your life and the lives of others. He also has a great sense of humor; the ability to
laugh at himself and others; also sympathize with them."
||"Dass Shoenfelt ein Klasse
Songschreiber ist, hat er oft genug unter Beweis gestellt, welche Kraft er allerdings als
diesem Fall stark autobiographischer) Schriftsteller entwickelt, ist dennoch erstaunlich. Junkie Love ist eine extrem packende Story von Verfall, Liebe, Kriminalität, Sucht und Exzess."
|New Pages Reviews
by Jessica Powers
|"This is the one of the best
works of fiction I’ve read in a long time. It is a story of addiction, love, and loss,
based partly on the experiences of Phil Shoenfelt himself, who was once a heroin junkie
and understands a junkie’s need, addiction, desires, and twisted love relationships.
Some books and movies about sex and addiction have the tendency to make me feel sick inside. The atmosphere I’m sucked into is dirty air, no light, small rooms - and claustrophobic me just wants OUT. Junkie Love is not that kind of novel. Shoenfelt brilliantly sucked me into that world and spit me out without ever making me claustrophobic.
The story of Cissy and the narrator is the story of a search for freedom and wholeness, sought through the medium of heroin. As they get more and more twisted up in their search, their emptiness and hollow existence becomes more and more apparent. They try harder and harder to fill it with heroin. It becomes harder and harder to do. Everything devolves. Life goes to shit. Death is involved. At long last, Shoenfelt resolves to break free, and he does, but with a sense of hope that he can break free of heroin addiction, yet manage to still live on the margins of society, “off the grid,” away from the society of the machine. For this ending, especially, I applaud the book. I can relate to Shoenfelt’s desire not to live the life of the automaton, the person who simply goes to a job to make money to pay bills because that’s what society expects. But how does one get the courage to live off the grid? How does one get the courage to live (legitimately) outside of society’s margins and strict rules of behavior? It makes it easier, I suppose, if you are a recovering junkie. You’ve lived for so long outside of the so-called “norm” that there’s less fear of doing it. Yet Shoenfelt doesn’t offer an example, only hope that it’s possible."
||"Der englische Autor Phil
Shoenfelt sieht nicht nur äußerlich so aus, als hätte er während seiner ausgedehnten
Musiker-Karriere schon jeden Spaß mitgemacht. Mit seiner zweiten Buch-Veröffentlichung
"Junkie Love" (Twisted Spoon Press, ISBN 80-86264-17-3) beschreibt der
49-jährige "Mark Burgess mit 70"-Lookalike in größtenteils autobiographischen
Zügen das exzessive Leben während der ausgehenden 80er Jahre im ausgeflippten Londoner
Stadtteil Camden Town. Gefangen irgendwo zwischen alles bestimmender Drogensucht,
hemmungslosem Sex und immer weiter schwindender Hoffnung schildert Shöenfelt mit seinem
ganz eigenen tief schwarzen britischen Humor den steilen sozialen Abstieg während der
Thatcher-Ära so eindringlich, dass selbst Größen wie Nick Cave oder Michael Gira
(Swans, Angels Of Light) stumm in zustimmendes Nicken verfallen."
|Financial Times, 18.08.2007
by Melissa Katsoulis
|"Most of us have never been a
heroin addict living in a filthy squat in Camden town and are jolly pleased about it. But
this account of the decade Shoenfelt spent crawling around for his next gramme of badly
cut powder comes with the unexpected coda that he doesn’t regret a minute of it.
During their time in the underworld, he and his girlfriend Cissy learnt painful, strange things about addiction and identity, and he enunciates them beautifully in this heavy little book.
Now clean and living in Prague, Shoenfelt’s vivid descriptions of the junkie’s daily journey from low to lower are accompanied by the stunningly scary line-drawings of Jolana Izbicka, and constitute essential reading for anyone interested in how things go wrong."
|Thee Big Black #1 - 2010||
swirling, disgusting world of needle holes, despair and debauchery is painted through the
evocative prose of Phil Shoenfelt, as Junkie Love recounts the grim realities and
tribulations of long-term heroin addiction, and romance emerging from within its murky
"Nothing of the sort can be said of Junkie Love (Ebury Press, 2007, €11), Phil Shoenfelt's second book. The author is a musician, writer and reformed heroin addict in the mould of Nick Cave, which is to say dark and lyrical, and he achieves a rare thing in the wake of Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting, which portrayed substance-abuse as cool. Shoenfelt has written a heartfelt novel based on his own experiences in London's filthy underbelly without glorifying the drug scene. Now in his 50s, he writes of his addiction, cleaning up his act, falling in love and then descending again into the abyss, invoking a sense of sympathy for his plight while maintaining revulsion for how drugs destroy not only the addict but, more worryingly, those around him. His descriptions of drug culture - the trade on the streets and in the swirling squats behind closed doors - are vivid and at times disturbing. The romance which forms the book's backbone is gritty and tragic with no saccharine resolution. Shoenfelt brings reason and a strong literary voice to the usually hip genre of the drug novel."