by Steve Earle
I was pleasantly surprised by Steve Earle’s “I’ll Never Get out of this World Alive”. I think we’ve all been burned by reading the literary efforts of a favourite actor or musician, so our expectations are often fairly low. I’m not really familiar with Steve Earle’s music- I’m more aware of him as an actor and fellow Townes Van Zandt fan. I was drawn to Earle’s book initially by its cover design- it’s beautiful, cluttered, busy collage rife with religious iconography.
Inside the book, he combines the best parts of Tom Robbins and W.S. Burrroughs, with plenty of his own genius thrown into the mix. Writing about addiction and the seamier side of life is often tedious and rings false, but Earle’s been there, and come out the other side. Earle also has the benefit of years of practice telling stories through his music.
The protagonist Doc is a washed up physician turned addict. Doc is joined by a great cast of characters- the cranky ghost of Hank Williams, who seems doomed to follow him; a bear sized drug dealer with a heart of gold, who seems to think it’s his duty to protect him; a young Mexican woman with miraculous healing powers and an Irish priest with a serious chip on his shoulder. What amazed me about the book was how soon it abandoned its focus on junkies, and became a tale about religious hypocrisy, reproductive rights, hope and redemption
At its center “I’ll Never Get out of this World Alive” is a book about the presence of beauty and compassion in any walk of life. Highly recommended reading for anyone looking for an uplifting read with an edge. - Caroline