Category: street slang


You have classics such as Carlos Castaneda “The teachings of Don Juan”, you have William S. Borroughs “Naked Lunch” and then there are Kathy Acker “Blood and guts in highschool” and tons of people who tried to jump the bandwagon. In the 90’s we have Irvine Welsh who is not just the “Trainspotting” but also the author of “Acid House”… But probably one of the more unknown ones, there is an 80’s novel by the back then still unknown American author Bret Easton Ellis. He wrote this novel at age 21 and it’s called “Less than zero”. Later on, it was made a movie with Robert Downey Jr. who himself quite often struggled with being on and off drugs.
I want to talk about this book since it was an eye opener for me. In many ways.

Back then when it came out, I was still at school when it came out. But as soon as I lived in Ireland I would make sure to read it.
I actually first read the book and then saw the film.
The whole book is a good sized package. It includes so many good streaks about modern western society that you cannot even say it is purely a drugs book because it would not be true.

Ellis lets us into the heart of American culture. Their obsessions, the silence within families that asphyxiating silence, and the pure hedonism of a youth centered culture.

It is still an easy read and a fast paced novel. At the end of the day, you see a group of friends shaken and faced with being part of a system that is pretty glamorous on the outside but sometimes proves to be a pitfall, and allows for more and more people to stumble, fall and not get back up again.

The part of Julian who is the heroic anti hero, the guy whose life falls spectacularly apart is so heavy that sometimes you keep asking yourself how Downey Jr was able to carry this off with such lightness and with such ease and charme.

Anyone who is wondering about the term spoilt brat, brat generation or generation x should read up on Ellis. He wrote for the generation x. For some Ellis is THE generation x author. The generation x covers the between 1965 -1975 born ones. It is a narrow generation but neither before nor after did we find ourselves inmidst a maelstrom of cultural decadence, affluence, and the feeling that everything would be possible some day not too far away, and these kids lived by it and through it. Let’s face it… My generation, we were growing up in absolute affluence, and the sometimes insane feeling that anything was possible. As long as you had the money to buy it, hire it or do it.

In gold digger terms: Boomtown years. The years of 1985 until 1999 more or less. I would make the cut here. You could argue and include 2000 but there was already the sign of an decreasing economy so I would just go as far and include 1999. In any case, 9-11 was the already a totally different era.

I will expand on the historic dimension and also on the impact of politics, terrorism and education another time since it would somehow make this article expand too much, but the crucial point is this: we – our generation – took the drugs because… Just because.  We simply could. It was a juvenile try out. It was somehow recreational. Like people do wellness or yoga. Speed, acid and pot were the yoga and bling bling of the mid-late 80’s and throughout the 90’s.  The money was there. Jobs were plenty. People were well off. Cold war had ended. There was no imminent war with anyone except for the gulf war. Everyone was relatively rich in the 80’s and beginning 90’s. So… The brat generation was born. Douglas Coupland called us generation x. But I find brat generation much more apt cos ours was the first ever generation after ww2 that was totally free in terms of freedom of speech, had received good education, was not forced to make do, but was rather encouraged to spend more time studying, and this would pay off, and still even students had plenty of money and other amenities through their parents, through society and the way the world was in. The basic word that comes to mind would be squander.

The funny thing is… 2000 was already the end of the dot com area and the high fly dreams of many many people.

So, just in case you should also belong to the generation x or brat pack, go out and read “Less than zero” and you will understand many things, looking into the rear mirror so to speak.

Plus it is a fast book that gets you hooked from the first moment. One thing I very much liked about Ellis and his style was that his stories sound like reality. These people are pretty much all out there. The situations too.

Julian is a true anti-hero, a lost boy, a kind and very weak character. Even though someone should protect him, he finds himself on a trip, caught in a downward spiral and we become voyeuristic witnesses of what he has to go through. The end is something very un-american and that is why I like so much about this book.

This is one of these books that you read, then put it aside, pick it up again and re-read it.
It is a very good novel about friendship, decadence, power and power abuse, drugs and the  principle “the show must go on”.

If you are afraid of reading a “drug book”, take it easy. “Less than Zero” is a read that shows and combines drugs, social decline and misery, but it is not as outspoken as others books earlier mentioned.

Should “Less Than Zero” be too lame and too boring, too harmless for you, try “Naked Lunch” instead.
Having said that, I do not find it lame or boring in any way, it is subtle. I really prefer “Less Than Zero” to “Naked Lunch”.

In case, you are interested in the urban novel, try and read Jay McInerney. “Bright Lights, Big City”. Here we have a sweet case of love, heartbreak and obsession. The coke he is snorting, the affect that the drugs have on him and the constant partying is a sideline but it is like it is an antagonist of the story-teller. Another generation x novel.

Sometimes when you’re working on writing something, it is extremely hard to find the right words. Words that are the right ones. Not politically correct maybe, but the right ones instead.

That is exactly what’s happening with my writings right now. I’m trying to finish my novel, reading and re-reading it, and somehow I’m still a bit at a loss as for some words in Catalan, especially Catalan colloquial speech. It should not be so hard to find them out. Well. That’s what I thought at the beginning, but after having perused nearly each and every book I could get hold of, I kinda feel at a loss. Even the socalled Catalan Colloquial Dictionaries only quote “clean” words. The whole idea of drug abuse seems to be so absurd that no one feels the need to quote it in a dictionary or maybe it is seen as vocabulary not necessary to perpetuate.

If you’re Catalan speaking, Catalan teacher or translator or whatever, or simply know of someone who could help me out, please send me a notice. Words that are connected with heroin, junkie, drug abuse, street jargon, but also justice, juridicial terms, topics things like that.

Maybe you will ask yourself why I need to have these words in the right street jargon. Well, that’s just me, I suppose. Of course, I could just use the easy way out and use the standard language. But in this field, I would like to play the authenticity card. I happen to prefer to call a horse a horse, a junkie a junkie and a mobster a mobster. I don’t like it when language becomes blurred. In our feeble intent to make language smooth and more acceptable for everyone, which we ironically enough call politically correct, we basically mess it up and make it understandable for no-one. That’s why I love being politically incorrect. Fuck them. People who understand me, basically get this. The others I need not to worry about.

The story I am writing is written in first person. That’s why it is such an urgent requirement to get the street jargon right. Otherwise the whole authenticity and thus its strength and immediacy would be lost.

Don’t make me go roam the streets, I am no good in chatting up junkies or social workers or drug lords. Plus I suppose it is not that easy to go underground just like that. And I don’t want to mess up either.

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