As mentioned a week or so ago, I picked up a copy of Cristy Road's new novel Bad Habits when I saw her reading at that fancypants Brooklyn literary event a week or two ago. I promised to report back once I read it, and here I am to say that it is very good indeed.
It's hard to say just how autobiographical the story is. It almost always is, especially since authors tend to get very touchy about this sort of thing, so I've pretty much given up trying, but let's just say there are some interesting parallels between the protagonist, who grew up in Florida of Cuban ancestry before moving to Brooklyn, and Cristy, who, well, yeah, who also sort of did that. But whether it's a straight-up memoir with some literary touches or a full-fledged novel that simply draws on some of her experiences, it's an outstanding story in every regard. I stand in awe.
I'm especially impressed because the book is shot through with drug scenes, to the point where drugs themselves practically become one of the characters, and while I normally don't enjoy that sort of literature - not least because I've already lived that scene myself - I was not only able to take it in stride, but actually got quite a bit out of it. Even if it did make me a bit queasy at times - or maybe because of it - I felt myself being transported back to the bleary hopelessness charged with ever-receding dreams and possibilities that I recall from my own drug days. Not with any trace of nostalgia, I might add; more with a shudder of recognition and a wave of gratitude that life on those terms no longer makes the slightest bit of sense to me.
If you're a fan of Cometbus, you'll probably find this book similarly enjoyable. Cometbus rarely gets this explicit, true, but there's the same fascinating interplay between external action (or sometimes the lack thereof) and internal reflection. I'd also say this book is a bit less romantic than Cometbus stories in general, in that I don't think it will inspire too many starry-eyed teenagers to move into a squat and shovel drugs into their system (though you never know how those teenagers will respond, do you?).
Another nice - and unique, at least in my experience - touch is the way that Cristy, who as you probably know is already a successful artist and illustrator - works drawings into the text. They're not just adornments, in the way that illustrations were typically used in novels in bygone days, but a brief (usually no more than a page or so) foray into the realm of the graphic novel. In other words, if you skip the pictures, you'll miss part of the plot. I wouldn't be shocked if somebody has done this before, but I don't recall ever seeing it.
Sum total: read this book. Tell your friends to read it. It's an inspiration.