A Year in Reading: Adam Wilson

December 14, 2013 | 7 books mentioned 4 2 min read

I’ve always liked books about drugs; they’re a good substitute for drugs. This year I read Michael Clune’s White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin, a memoir that reads like a lost modernist novel — James Joyce as a junkie in modern day Baltimore. James Frey eat your heart out.

I finally got around to reading Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose books. There was a lot of noise about the cycle’s most recent installment, At Last, but I preferred the earlier, druggier Bad News, a comic masterpiece about an upper class British twit trying to score heroin in 1990s New York that calls to mind one of the all-time great novels of excess, Martin Amis’s Money.

coverSam Lipsyte has always written wonderfully about substance abuse — see his early story “Cremains,” in which a man mixes his mother’s ashes with morphine and injects them into his arm — and his new collection The Fun Parts is no exception. Not all the stories are about drugs though, and my favorites cover fresh ground, from drone invasions to high school shot put competitions. No matter the subject, Lipsyte wins with his swervy sentences that can carry a reader from pants-pissing laughter to pants-shitting pathos in a just couple of comma-hinged clauses.

Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers is like a drug cocktail — equal parts Dexedrine and Viagra — with its disarmingly brilliant depiction of woman named Reno who rides motorcycles, men, and the icy waves of the New York art world. Lots of praise has been heaped upon this novel, and, unlike most bags of overpriced cocaine, it actually lives up to the hype.

coverI’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my father’s book, Kick and Run, a lovely and haunting memoir about his life as a soccer fan, player, journalist, and coach. The book begins with my father getting injured falling out of bed while scoring prescription drug-inspired goals in his middle-aged fever dreams, and also includes useful ruminations on the problem of playing soccer stoned — sometimes the ball is big, sometimes it’s small.

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Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

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's second novel, Sensation Machines, came out in July. He is previously the author of another novel and a collection of short stories. A National Jewish Book Award Finalist, and a recipient of The Paris Review's Terry Southern Prize for Humor, his work has appeared in Harper's, Tin House, The Paris Review, and The Best American Short Stories.


  1. I need someone to clear this up for me because the internet is useless…is Adam Wilson’s father the famous soccer journalist? or just happen to write a book about soccer?? I’m so confused. I can’t figure out if the same guy wrote Kick & Run AND Inverting the Pyramid

  2. While it’s true that my dad is not the Jonathan Wilson who wrote Inverting the Pyramid, he is famous in his own right, as a fiction writer, critic, essayist, and soccer journalist too–he covered the World Cup for the New Yorker in ’94, an experience that is extensively documented in Kick and Run. This is not the first time he has been mistaken for the “other” Jonathan Wilson, and he even wrote a funny essay about it (and other things) at The Paris Review: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/06/19/cutouts/

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