A few nights ago, I stayed up way too late blazing through the last third of Kasher in the Rye, comedian Moshe Kasher’s memoir about his childhood and addiction. Then I stayed up for another hour to recover from what I’d just read.
The last several pages were the most cathartic I’ve experienced in a long time. Kasher spends almost all of the book outlining his exploits growing up the child of divorced deaf parents, falling in with junior high drug dealers, and becoming addicted to alcohol and pot and acid as a young teenager in a humorous, even braggadocious tone. His years of drug use and addiction, dropping out of school after school, putting his family through hell, and failing to complete rehab programs are grim, but he moves so quickly through the story and drops enough pop culture references and wry jokes that the realities of the situation are kept at bay for a long time. The bravado begins to dissipate as his exploits become darker and he starts to want to change without being able to, but there’s still a kind of twisted pride in his tone as he recounts the lurid details. In one anecdote, he lies to his mom and says he needs money to pay people back for various debts, as part of the “making amends” phase of his 12-step program. Then he proceeds to use the money for drugs. As the narrator, he acknowledges that he’s kind of proud of the fact that he’s never met anyone else who used their “amends money” to get high.
And then finally, in the last part of the book, he gets sober and we fast-forward to his adult life. There’s still humor there, but it’s an upbeat and reflective kind, not bitter and rueful. The snarky pretense is dropped, and it was the shock of that, I think, that made the last several pages so guttingly emotional for me. Even through my tears, I admired the technique–the way you realize that all of Kasher’s sarcasm and swagger earlier on was the voice of his younger self, him as the author inhabiting the bullshit he used to use to hold the world at arm’s length. By contrast, the genuineness of those last pages, the simple and often bittersweet joys of his adult life, is so direct that it hurts. It’s a release.
I don’t know much, if anything, about addiction personally, but Kasher in the Rye is easily among the best pop culture I’ve consumed on the subject. I recommend it to you.