Provenance: first published in The Union Recorder: The weekly newspaper of the University of Sydney Men’s Union: 1970. Transcribed by Corner Cottage Enterprises 2009, edited by John Tranter 2009.
Angus and Robertson’s reputation as a publisher has hardly been such as to send thrills of admiration through the local intelligensia, nor to lend colour to the nightmares of the R.S.L. moguls. It has tended to be cautious, respectable and generally “worthy”, based on a line of gardening books, school text-books, polite poetry, animal stories, and so on.
Their latest publication, however, marks a much more adventurous response to the problems of the twentieth century. Kevin Mackey’s autobiographical documentary was mostly written in prison, and deals in a tough and nerveous fashion with the twilight world of the drug addict.
The approach is straight narrative, and though the writing is decorated at times with a stream-of-consciousness effect, it is never “creative literature” in the sense that, say, Rimbaud or Burroughs are. The main virtues of the book are to be found in the cynically honest approach to the peculiar day-to-day realities of the recidivist addict: the alternate despair and elation, boredom and excitement, tenderness and rank obscenity; the world of mental hospitals, prisons, worried family, brutal cops and the mean and dirty underworlds of Sydney and Melbourne.
Though the story is shapeless and repetitive, as life mostly is, and though the writing is occasionally loose and occasionally over-tense, Mackey manages to bring a fair amount of insight to the world of the glorious high and the vomit-streaked comedown. He doesn’t try to glamorise drugs, nor does he make himself a hero. He’s been through too much shit for that, and seen himself in too many humiliating situations. His best quality is his absolutely straight approach: he tells it like it is.