I finished re-reading the book Going Down with Janis, thirty-one years after I read it the first time. What do I think now?
Meh. It may be another thirty-one years before I read it again, if at all.
Not because it’s a terrible book – it wasn’t like watching in adulthood the Sid and Marty Krofft shows you loved as a kid. It just felt like a been-there-done-that trip, which is not an optimal reading experience.
When I first read it, it was like anthropology – looking into the lives of exotic creatures, in this case people who use hard drugs. Hanging out with drug users – whether or not you use yourself – is like hopping on board Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Only you don’t end up in Disneyland.
After my first reading of Going Down with Janis, I searched for biographies and autobiographies of drug users – and that story got tired faster than knock-knock jokes. It’s a story with only two endings: death, or recovery into a life with a fraction of the thrills it had before. (Nothing wrong with being drug-free, but it’s more enjoyable to be sober yourself than to read about someone else being sober.)
I’m now into other kinds of stories – not the fanciful lifestyles of the rich and famous, but about people with difficult decisions to make. People who prove the principle that everyday life contains drama enough.
The 1960s did contain beauty, excitement, and a new freedom to take risks. Then and now, they are better experienced with a clear head.