b y Priscila Uppal

Alongside Eugene Ionesco and George F. Walker plays, Erín Moure’s O Resplandor and Nikolai Gogol short stories, my guilty-pleasure beach reading while recently in Barbados was the autobiography Slash (co-written with Anthony Bozza). I say “guilty” pleasure, but it’s nearly impossible to feel any guilt whatsoever about your life when compared to the depravity and hedonistic debauchery of music gods: five-star hotel wreckage, orgies with porn stars and strippers, environmentally disastrous alcohol and drug toxicity levels, even the stealing of rare poisonous snakes from pet stores (Slash not only had a gallon-a-day vodka habit, as well as heroin, crack and painkiller addictions, but rampant kleptomania, which included procuring his first signature top hat).

Mostly, when one discusses or reads about the alcohol and drug addictions of various 20th-century poets—Dylan Thomas, W. H. Auden, Robert Lowell, Dorothy Parker, Charles Bukowski, even Canada’s own Gwendolyn MacEwen or Al Purdy—the overall tone is sombre, the gaze regretful, the verdict pathetic. Poets drink shit wine and beer and are scurried away at closing time, while rock stars drink themselves into stupors on yachts and crash Corvettes while high on coke. Poets wreck their marriages to loyal academics or gardeners, while rock stars have threesomes with their band members and record their sexual escapades for sound effects (i.e., those are real cries of sexual pleasure on the track “Rocket Queen”—Axl Rose with GN’R drummer Steven Adler’s ex-girlfriend). Poets owe everyone money and go into therapy, and rock stars go into luxurious rehabs and get state-of-the-art heart defibrillators. When they get sober, they also get personal trainers and six-pack abs. Poets get fat and start to pay their taxes.

Reading Slash robbed me of any lingering teenage wish to have been able to hang out with the virtuoso guitarist or any member of GN’R, Mötley Crüe or Aerosmith in their heyday (and no woman would ever want to cross paths with David Lee Roth, who was apparently the most promiscuous of the lot), but it does leave one in awe of the abuses the body, mind and soul can stand in the name of rock ’n’roll. And I for one sincerely hope that Bozza is working with Courtney Love next.

Priscila Uppal is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection, Winter Sport: Poems (Mansfield Press).

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