Anonymous (Edited by Beatrice Sparks), Go Ask Alice
(1971, Prentice-Hall, New York, 143pp)
Whilst this anti-drug propaganda tale of a teenagers descent
into hell failed to ever dissuade anyone I knew from actually doing drugs it nevertheless
was required reading at school during the 1970s and 80s. Despite this "true
story" seeming vaguely convincing to my fourteen year old mind it is all
too easy to see now why it's cautionary approach failed to convince myself or
any of my peers to "Just Say No" at the time.
To begin with the diarists descent into drug fueled madness and death is so rapid
and extreme (she goes from being dosed with acid to losing her virginity, gulping
down sleeping pills and injecting speed within a week) that few kids in the sleepy
old suburbs of Perth could really relate to it beyond expressing the usual cliches
("Gee, it could only happen in America"). Similarly its depictions of
heroin related degradation seemed all too remote whilst its vivid descriptions
of the joys of pot and acid came across as all too enticing. Beyond that of course
was the fact that whilst drug horror stories may titilate they rarely succeed
since kids who get into heavy drug use generally either consider themselves invincible
or are eager to buy into the whole degradation trip that such tales portray.
Reading the book again as an adult I find it comes across all too readily as a
mixture of half truths and urban myths masquerading as the "real deal".
The claims of the diarist to have sold LSD to nine year olds (who in turn she
claims are dealing to others!) are simply far too reminiscent of the kind of uninformed
fantasies the tabloid press were dreaming up at the time. The "editor"
of the novel, former child psychologist Beatrice Sparks, more than slightly gave
the game away herself in 1979 when she marketed her next book Jay's Journal as
being "From the author who brought you Go Ask Alice." If Go Ask Alice's
wild trip into drug hell seemed over the top then Jay's Journal was even more
insane as it's diarist indulged in black masses, cattle mutilation and angel dust
binges before following Alice into the grave.
Despite carefully marketing her later books as works of fiction Sparks continues
to stand by the authenticity of these earlier diaries. When pushed over the obvious
similarities between the stilted writing styles of both Go Ask Alice and Jay's
Journal and their diarists' tendency to neglect contemporary music, films and
events she has instead claimed to have compiled various patients diaries into
a single definitive tome. In my opinion she just made the whole thing up since
both cases reflect her own prejudiced and distorted view of the world.
Regardless of its enduring popularity (the book has sold over 4 million copies
and even spawned a Made For TV movie starring William Shatner) Go Ask Alice has
oddly enough found itself banned from a number libraries in the U.S. Bizarrely
enough the groups behind this censorship are the very sort of rabid fundamentalists
one would have imagined embracing its sledgehammer anti-hedonism. But then these
are the same people who also want Evolutionary science texts banned and who force
their children to sign "chastity contracts" so any mention of sex and
drugs is probably beyond the pale. Notwithstanding these efforts Sparks still
manages to turn a major buck from churning out patronising and misleading slop
with her eighth anonymous diary hitting the market in recent years.
"Dear close, intimate, warm friend Diary,
What a fantastic, unbelievable, expanding, thrilling week I've had. It's been
like wow- the greatest thing that ever happened. Remember I told you I had a date
with Bill? Well he introduced me to Torpedos on Friday and Speed on Sunday. They
are both like riding shooting stars through the Milky Way, only a million, trillion
times better. The Speed was a little scary at first because Bill had to inject
it right into my arm. I remembered how much I hated shots when I was in the hospital,
but this is different, now I can't wait, I positively can't wait to try it again.
No wonder it's called Speed! I could hardly control myself, in fact I couldn't
have if I had wanted to, and I didn't want to. I danced like I have never dreamed
possible for introverted, mousy little me. I felt great, free, abandoned, a different,
improved, perfected specimen of a different, improved, perfected species. It was
wild! It was beautiful! It really was." (page 29)
Beatrice Sparks' contact website-
(Biographical details and appearance fees)