Jerry Stahl recounts in his blistering 1995 memoir, ”Permanent Midnight,” drug addiction turned him into a skittish, distracted, hugely self-involved individual. But since he happened to be working in Hollywood, no one really noticed.
Widely considered to be one of the best memoirs of addiction, Permanent Midnight tells the tale of Jerry Stahl who had a fantastic career in the 1980s, writing for shows such as ALF, Moonlighting and Thirty Something. Despite his grand career, Stahl was also a major heroin addict and this habit soon gets him in its grip, leading to his downfall and darkest hour. We then follow Stahl as he attempts to dig his way out of the mire and embrace a sober lifestyle.
Given the extent of his heroin use, I think that it is a bona fide miracle that Stahl lived through what he tells us in his memoir and came out of it alive. Written before it became fashionable to publish addiction memoirs, Stahl is a man at the height of his literary powers and manages to evoke in the reader disgust, despair, empathy and compassion. Stahl is so frank and witty, it is hard not to like the man.
The vast majority of substance abusers will not have as huge an addiction to smack that Stahl had – his well paid jobs kept the money coming in so he developed an obscenely massive habit. A 1998 film followed Permanent Midnight’s publication with Ben Stiller starring as Jerry Stahl. Admired by the critics, it does not, however, have the same cult appeal as the book.
“An extraordinary accomplishment. . . . A remarkable book that will be of great value to people who feel isolated, alienated and overwhelmed by the circumstances of their lives.”— Hubert Selby Jr., author of Last Exit to Brooklyn
“Stahl is a better-than-Burroughs virtuoso.”—Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker