Sunday Book Review: Heroin, Hookers, and Homicide with Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction


Sunday Book Review: Heroin, Hookers, and Homicide with Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction

Sunday Book Review is a recurring feature devoted to bridging the gap between music fans and music books. We aim to give you a taste of new and classic books that dive deep into the psyches of musicians. Tweet requests @nmcalone. 

Most musician autobiographies try to hide their ghostwriters as much as possible. They want to sell you the fantasy that the words you are reading came straight from the artist’s soul. This is not the case with Dave Navarro and Neil Strauss’ 2005 collaboration, Don’t Try This at Home: A Year in the Life of Dave Navarro, published by It Books. Co-author Neil Strauss is present not just in the writing, but in the story, as an observer and occasional participant in life at Navarro’s house, a place which became “a cross between a crack den, an after-hours club, a halfway house and Andy Warhol's Factory.”

Strauss is a keen observer of the rock lifestyle, having also helped pen the autobiography of Marilyn Manson, which we reviewed in a previous column. But the two books are completely different, with Manson’s being a concerted attempt to present an image of himself and Navarro’s being a voyeuristic romp through an unsustainable life. It’s essential to have Strauss’ voice here, to cut through some of Navarro’s drug-addled psychobabble and orient the reader within this world.

Because of this, the form is perhaps the most innovative part of this book. Strauss’ voice appears most often, but there are also pieces of transcribed dialogue, and mini-essays by Navarro. It’s a mishmash of perspectives and roles. At one point Strauss is even forced to rethink the ethics of his own project when Navarro reaches out to him, potentially as just a friend, in the wake of an intervention.

Jane’s Addiction was one of the bands responsible for bursting alternative music, and especially alternative metal, into the mainstream. The story of their rise and on-again off-again relationship with being a band is a potentially interesting one, but this book isn’t about the music. Instead, it’s a study of the disintegration of a lifestyle, something Strauss also captured in The Game, his book about professional pickup artists. It’s a book about the stifling embrace of drugs, Los Angeles, and fame, so if that story intrigues you, read on for a selection of moments from the book.

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