Tuesday, July 23, 2013

White Out by Michael W. Clune

"Wishes begin in white. Jesus is white Madonna is white. The queen is white. The moon is white. The white tops are white. A picture starts out as a white space. A white space is a picture of the future. The future poses, the camera snaps, the picture is pure white. In Baltimore that summer the best heroin was sold in little glass vials with white stoppers. White tops."

White Out is a memoir about drug addiction, specifically heroin. In the first chapter, "Memory Disease," Clune describes the strong grip heroin had on him and its deleterious effects. But he does so through conversations, gritty characters, and grim scenes.

Throughout the book, it is rare that Clune's writing is overtly didactic. He chooses rather to rely on the reader to draw conclusions from the stories he presents. That's really what they are: stories. Because while White Out is a memoir, it reads like a novel. At numerous points, I was reminded of scenes from HBO's The Wire, which was also set in Baltimore. The people Clune introduces the reader to seem almost too tragic to be real: Henry who lost an arm after passing out on top of it in a heroin-induced sleep; the people trying to get clean that he meets at various clinics; and Clune himself, perhaps the most tragic.

Clune eventually gets clean. I imagine it would be impossible to write a publishable book while addicted to heroin. He credits his sobriety to "the machine"--to the habits he formed in the early days of his recovery. Habits like meditation, going to NA meetings, and making lists for himself. But besides making to-do lists each night for the following day, Clune says he does not think about the future. The future, in all of it whiteness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There has been a huge heroin problem in Baltimore for a number of years (I live just south of there) ... it is truly a tragedy. I'm thrilled that Clune was able to get clean eventually, though I'm certain that it is an ongoing struggle.

Thanks for being on the tour.