Sometimes I Think About It: Essays

Personal essays are only as good as the author's voice. In his collection Sometimes I Think About It, Stephen Elliott (The Adderall Diaries) grounds each entry in an authentic, down-to-earth voice that conveys the pain of being human and moribund. With spare diction, Elliott writes of his abusive father, of living on the streets as a teen, of drug addiction and suicidal ideation.

Elliott has a nonchalant way of weaving dark subjects into greater narratives. His masochistic tendencies and morbid fascination with violent films are woven into sober examinations of his love life. In "Hate to Be Alone," he connects sadomasochism to his childhood trauma--"She liked to hurt people, and I liked to be hurt"--as if restaging that trauma in the bedroom could mitigate its long-lasting effects. Although his personal revelations are often unsettling, Elliott locates a tender vulnerability at the center of his struggles, and from there charts a course toward hope, if not redemption. "The difference between a happy ending and an unhappy ending is simply the place you decide to stop telling your story," he writes in "Sometimes I Think About Suicide."

The second half of the collection is more journalistic in scope as Elliott takes his world-weary voice on assignment, writing about a deadly landslide in Southern California, constant fighting and inhumanity in the Gaza Strip, juvenile criminal justice, and the music of Britney Spears, among other subjects. Sometimes I Think About It is dark, ruminative and piercing, depicting how tragedy and pain can actually bring people together. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

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