Edited by Craig Lewis, 147 pgs, Better Days Recovery Press, punksinrecovery.com
Craig Lewis’ compilation of twenty-five personal accounts of mental illness, addiction and trauma is as unvarnished and raw as the punk rock scene to which its authors belong.
The world of You’re Crazy is populated by “misfits” – misunderstood and alienated non-conformists – for whom the punk scene represents acceptance and a creative outlet. But it can also enable and amplify the participants’ worst excesses, with themes of self-medicating and self-abuse permeating the text. Disillusionment with the subculture is rife, as in Jenny “DevilDoll” Gonzalez-Blitz’s “Knives and Noise,” where she describes “searching for a freedom in bohemia, only to find that despite its solace, bohemia is also in an oppressor’s chokehold.”
The quality of writing varies considerably throughout the collection, and clearly some efforts could benefit from further editing. However, the overall impact is powerful due to an unflinching honesty and graphic depictions of the consequences of mental illness, none more so than the narrator’s decision to hang himself from his family home’s largest tree in the opening paragraph of “Pat’s Story.” “Disease” by Jessica Rosengrant evocatively employs an extended metaphor to describe her seven-month encounter with addiction – an unnamed, inseparable “friend” becomes an unshakeable burden, eventually cast off and abandoned in the dirt. The visually experimental “Knives and Noise” evokes the kinetic nature of a creative but disordered mind seeking salvation in primal percussion.
Overwhelmingly, there is hope. A veteran of the Boston punk scene, Lewis himself battled addiction while struggling with mental illness, an experience which motivated him to publish this collection in an effort to reduce the associated stigma. An empowering read, You’re Crazy adds a powerful voice to the increasing awareness of mental health issues in the seemingly accepting punk rock community. (Susan Carolan)