Despite the at times dark nature of Liam Pieper's memoir of his childhood through twenties in Melbourne, I found 'The Feel-Good Hit Of The Year' a joy to read. It is self deprecating, honest and ultimately a celebration of youth when so many of us think we are much harder and tougher than the reality of our suburban meekness. It is true though that Pieper's suburban childhood deviated from the norm in that Pieper's parents originally lived in a commune style set up in a dilapidated manor house in Melbourne's south-east, and smoked a lot of pot. This is where we get the great pun of the title, and indeed Pieper and his two brothers, one younger and one older, started at an early age emulating their parents:
'We were about twelve when, on a sleepover, we stole some of Ardian's weed and rolled it into a clumsy joint. Together, Sam and I stuck our eager little faces out of the bedroom window and passed the blunt back and forth, watching as the smoke billowed out into the night and the universe opened up for us. Suddenly we understood all those foreign, esoteric, grown up things that until now we'd only pretended to like: art-house movies, anime, jam bands, endless guitar solos. Getting high was like finding out a pamphlet that explained how to get the most out of our leisure time, and that was all we did for the next couple of years'.
Before long, Pieper was selling at first marijuna at school, and then pills and so forth on a larger scale as 'business' took off. Absurdly, Pieper started selling to his own parents who I suppose correctly, found it more comfortable to buy in their own home, rather than from say, a seedy person in a back alleyway:
'So helping Mum and Dad to score was ideal, as far as I could see, although it made negotiating pocket money awkward. I thought I should get more as I was dealing to them at cost price, but they didn't see it that way. In the end, I took it as an overhead'.
However, the memoir is not all laughs and gentle jibes at hippy parents. Pieper clearly adores his parents but doesn't exactly sugarcoat his descriptions of their often lax parenting, and the trajectory of his beloved older brother Ardian's life to heroin addiction is poignantly stated. Pieper doesn't set out to make any judgements on drug use in his memoir but plenty is said between the lines.
The highlights of 'The Feel-Good Hit Of The Year' are the comic mishaps whenever Pieper was involved with the police and the raid of his house when he was in his twenties was fun to read (even if it was terrible for the author at the time):
'Just before he grabbed me, I caught a flash of the Lacoste logo on his shirt and my heart sank. I'm not sure when or why the undercover officers of the world decided that the mid-tier designer polo was the cloak of urban invisibility, but every time a cop has sprung out of the shadows at me, it's always been there, faithful as a hound, that fucking crocodile'.
Don't be fooled that this memoir is some stoner rambling of redemption; Pieper is an intelligent and insightful writer. During his years selling, he was having short stories published in literary journals: it just happened though, that his life story was the story that would bring him the most recognition. I highly recommend this memoir.
Why reading and writing is the road to happiness...
This blog started years ago as a place to muse on the life projects keeping me entertained. It is no surprise then that it has morphed into a blog about my reading as that has been my lifelong project. Here I review lots of different types of books, with an added focus on Australian women writers. Hope you enjoy - feel free to contribute to the conversation!