“Good At Drugs” is a deliciously scathing love letter to music festivals and drugs
I love music, especially live music. I drink more than drugs, but I’m generally a big fan of recreational chemical alterations. I like people in general. But everything in most music festivals sounds like fucking hell to me, and I’ve often struggled to put my finger on why. Maybe that’s the cost (I got free tickets to see the ‘Mats at Boston Calling one year, which is the only way to justify the $ 15 beers). Maybe it’s all the queue and the traffic (I hate standing in line and being in transit). Maybe it’s the portapotties (I hate other people’s poo).
But I absolutely loved it Good at drugs, a new novel by KKUURRTT that tells the story of a particularly memorable and depressing electronic music festival. Here is the configuration:
The last American music festival. Psychedelics, nasal drugs and house music. Except this time something looks different. You don’t know what? End of the world? Drug-induced conspiracy? Nope.
An adventure in the spirit of an adventurous spirit. Stumble, Roll and Dissociate through the Musical and / or Pharmacological Strings Course which is a three day music festival.
The back cover also includes this blurb, which I find perfectly accurate:
“Good At Drugs” is a jar of reckless living – a beautiful, endless addiction nightmare of crappy music festivals, crappy rave and crappy people. Think “Fear and Loathing” at Coachella. It reads like a drug because KKUURRTT writes like a drug.
The book is narrated by a guy named Roland, who is in his 30s with a BA in Media Arts from Boston University and now makes a living in San Diego writing tweets for brands. Roland is anxious, lonely and depressed. While he is certainly aware of how society has somehow prepared him for failure with overpriced student loans and patriarchal pressures, he does not. blame neither does anyone else for his problems – he’s a bummer to himself, and it’s hard enough. But these weekend music festivals is the only place he can feel living, man. He gorges himself on drugs (preferably a constant flow of alternating between cola and ketamine, although he takes what he can get) and dances and feels connected to people. It’s not so much about the music itself, he explains at the start of the book; it’s about what music allow.
I have met a lot of Roland guys in my life. The Rolands of the world are not really my scene. But KKUURRTT approaches his protagonist with a deep sense of empathy that really touched me. I still don’t feel like hanging out with Roland, and the author certainly doesn’t apologize for his man-child shit. But I to have him. I have this feeling of anxiety, of being disappointed in yourself because you are disappointed that you were raised on a lie about America. I have the idea to detach myself, to find a channel to connect with other people.
Personally, I prefer other behaviors than doing Molly with a bunch of 20 year olds at an EDM festival, but, you know, I get it. In a transitive way.
And that’s the real strength of Good at drugs. The basic plot is simple – he’s going to chronicle three days at a music festival, you can assume there will be romance and missed connections and hilarious drug-induced adventures, et cetera – but KKUURRTT colors the world with a relentless combination of compassion and sensitivity, and also a bunch of endlessly shitty people. Everyone in this book no, and I never want to hang out with any of them, especially at this music festival. But each of them is also described as deeply, deeply human. And that’s what makes the trip even more tragic. It’s pretty clear early on in the story that this won’t be a romantic comedy where Roland learns a lesson at the end and finds out how to change his life. At some point the music festival is going to end… and it breaks your heart all the time to know that it won’t end well and that there won’t be an epiphany. Because that’s not how real life works.
It would be easy to write a book like this only a satire of drugged techno music culture – and make no mistake, Good at drugs is an avalanche of moments of laughter. But the author clearly has a deep affection for this culture as well. As much as I personally hate being approached by a smelly guy who trips his balls that just feels the music, man, it can be easy to forget that this guy – shit as he is! – is still a person, and still his problems and difficulties, some of which probably led him to become This guy at the music festival. It can all be true, and this guy can still be a total sucker.
KKUURRTT balances this dichotomy and tension almost as beautifully as he builds his scintillating prose. The words are witty and self-referential, with a distinct love for rhythms and sounds. The language of the book is poetic as is music.
Hell, he even writes down each of Roland’s distinct drug journeys in a way that uniquely captures the intimate details of each individual drug experience. It’s not just “It’s your brain on drugs.” The prose illustrates Roland’s brain and behavior on marijuana, ketamine, cocaine, LSD, MDMA in a way that sets them apart from each other. On a practical level, this makes sense; they are all different drugs, which have different effects on your brain chemistry. But I have read a lot of drugged fiction (and I have sometimes indulged in my own recreational substances!), And Good at drugs was the rare book that truly captured these prose distinctions.
My only real criticism of the book is that it’s very white guy centric. It makes sense in the context of the story and given the characters you meet. The narrator is not unaware of it either; there is a big moment where Roland is trying to find a way to have sex with a girl he meets at the festival and he reflects on how he was socialized as a white man to expect certain things and act a certain way. He is ashamed and embarrassed to give in to his worst instincts because he knows it is a symptom of white privilege. He understands the dynamic powers of his own shitty behavior; but he always tries to take advantage of it, even though he knows he shouldn’t. Spoiler: It turns on him, as it should. But, if you don’t want to read a book that’s mostly centered around shitty white dudes, I can get it. Otherwise, Good at drugs is a breeze and a pleasure to read.
Good at drugs [KKUURRTT / Back Patio Press]
Full disclosure: KKUURRTT and I were randomly assigned to live in the same suite in the dorms at Emerson College in 2005. I think I’ve seen him once since we graduated at a Comic-Con night. . Coincidentally, another of the guys who lived in this suite with us married another Emerson graduate named Margot Wood, who too has just published a new novel titled COSTS, which takes place … in the dorms of Emerson College.