(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)

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