Jason Pine


On his book The Alchemy of Meth: A Decomposition

Cover Interview of March 18, 2020

A close-up

If a potential reader were to simply browse the book, I hope they would quickly find a page from one of the meth cooks’ stories. They are sensitive, wounded people who have done things some people may not be able to accept. This tension would then stir up an upsetting feeling, and I would hope that the feeling stayed with the reader all the way, if they were to read the whole book. I originally wanted to publish the book without any introduction because I feel the stories speak for themselves. I wouldn’t want readers to get distracted by the introductory material, but because the book is very experimental in form it’s necessary to guide readers a little bit.

I spent lots of time with each of the cooks, except for Howard Lee, a person I never met and who I represent only through reproductions of the documents I found in his busted and abandoned trailer home. All of the cooks wanted me to help them or others who might end up like them, or worse. I want a reader to get pulled in like I was and to feel the burden of reading like I felt it while listening. I want them to find a page from the story of Christian, which I found difficult to hear because of its resonance with the story of my own family. I want them to feel how he never had a chance. I want them to notice how I crossed the line while writing about his mother, nearly reducing her to his abuser. Then I want them to find the letter Christian wrote to me from prison, in which he describes his mother’s quirky rock collection and her deep care for animals, and how he loved her dearly. I want the reader to feel that the integrity of the author and of the book is at risk, sometimes barely holding together. Sometimes stories and people and places are laced with sadness, rage, and delusional hope, and that’s what holds them together.