Reviews > Published on January 5th, 2015

Bookshots: 'Starve The Vulture' By Jason Carney

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Starve The Vulture

Who wrote it:

Thanks to Carney’s long career as a poet, there are some truly beautiful, enthralling passages that make the book a real page turner.

Four-time National Poetry Slam finalist, Jason Carney.

Plot in a Box:

Boy meets crack, boy falls in love with crack, at least until crack starts beating the shit out of him and taking all of his money.

Invent a new title for this book:

Zero Hour

Read this if you liked:

Permanent Midnight by Jerry Stahl, The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll, Kentucky Ham by William S. Burroughs Jr.

Meet the book's lead:

Jason Carney, emotionally bled out poet and perpetual outsider who really, really likes crack cocaine.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

Bradley Cooper, mostly because I don’t think the role would be much of a stretch for him.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

Most of the book takes place in Dallas, Texas, so fuck no.

What was your favorite sentence?

Every surface smells of Alzheimer’s and bacon fat. Bill grew old by fits of forgetfulness. The thin, ancient windowpanes bubble out in the heat and bow inward from the cold: they always portray a blemished reflection. Cobweb ghost towns hang in the deep corners of the bedroom ceilings. These all remind me that old people live here—folks too tired to maintain appearances.

The Verdict:

Oh God, not another junkie autobiography … Yeah, I’m sure a good size chunk of you are saying that right now. But, you know what, there really haven’t been all that many published. Despite the rash of literary autobiographies we all had to suffer through in the early 2000’s because of the success of books such as Me Talk Pretty One Day, Running with Scissors, and A Million Little Pieces, publishers were far more interested in putting out stories of broken childhoods and tales of dysfunctional mommies and daddies than they were of strung out authors.

Sure, there have been plenty of fictional accounts of rampant drug abuse published, but as far as true life accounts, there’s really only been a handful of them foisted on the public since the king of literary junkies, good old Willy S. Burroughs, published Junky through Fawcett back in 1953. Because let’s face it, like Junky, (and Go Ask Alice and A Million Little Pieces) most junky autobiographies are highly fictionalized, and to be blunt, folks, most of them need to be slightly embellished because of one reason and one reason alone: Drug users are boring because all most users do are drugs and little else.

Yeah, most ex-users have one or two good stories, but you can’t typically spin a whole book around that one really good story about the speed dealer who held you at gunpoint for six hours. There are exceptions such as Jerry Stahl’s Permanent Midnight, Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries, and William S. Burroughs Jr’s Kentucky Ham. But what made those books so successful wasn’t the tales of drug use, but the stories that surround the drug use.

Those stories are what makes Jason Carney’s Starve The Vulture so successful as a narrative. It isn’t the scenes of Carney driving around Dallas scoring crack that make the book so harrowing, it's the stories of his large extended family, his mentally ill, man-obsessed mother, his alcoholic absent father, and his long-suffering grandmother that actually drive the book and make it highly readable. Also, it does help that Carney can actually write. Thanks to Carney’s long career as a poet, there are some truly beautiful, enthralling passages that make the book a real page turner. So, before you inwardly moan about not being interested in reading a book about the adventures of yet another addict, really rethink your attitude and give Starve The Vulture a try.

About the author

Keith Rawson is a little-known pulp writer whose short fiction, poetry, essays, reviews, and interviews have been widely published both online and in print. He is the author of the short story collection The Chaos We Know (SnubNose Press)and Co-Editor of the anthology Crime Factory: The First Shift. He lives in Southern Arizona with his wife and daughter.

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