Book review: Geoff Rickly – Someone Who Isn’t Me

Thursday singer Geoff Rickly explores the darkest recesses of his psyche and his life on his sublime debut novel…

Book review: Geoff Rickly – Someone Who Isn’t Me
Mischa Pearlman

Reading Someone Who Isn’t Me is like watching Geoff Rickly’s life flash before your eyes. The Thursday/No Devotion singer's first novel is – pretty literally – a fever dream, although to classify it as such is to do injustice to both how feverish and dreamlike this book actually is.

Based on his own experiences, the vast majority of it takes place within the surreal folds of an ibogaine trip at a Mexican clinic, where Geoff travels in a desperate, last ditch effort to overcome his spiralling heroin addiction. This is no ordinary narrative about what happened there, however, nor the befores and afters. Rather, it’s a surreal (but simultaneously wholly real) dive into his subconscious that places you vividly and viscerally inside both his brain and his addiction. You become the junk that’s been flowing through his veins, you become the ibogaine, you become Geoff’s subconscious and conscious selves – and everything in between.

That’s where Someone Who Isn’t Me – a phrase often used by users of online drug forums in the (false) belief they can avoid self-incrimination by doing so – really excels. Because instead of retelling his experience from an objective distance now that he’s sober, it plunges you headfirst into the paranoid thralls of his addiction and his attempts to escape it by finding his true self on this treacherous, potentially fatal trip into the dark recesses of his mind.

An unfettered journey of self-discovery and identity – another reason for its title – it’s harrowing and poetic and beautifully written, but also, to put it bluntly, an entirely fucked-up ride. There’s no glorifying his drug use whatsoever, though. Rather, it paints him at his abject worst, revealing the horrifically damaging effects of his addiction. And it holds nothing back, blending the worst of his reality with the worst of his unreality, and merging the two together until they’re the same thing, until you – just like him – don’t know what’s real and what’s not.

It means, remarkably, that you can feel exactly how he felt as you embark on this journey inside his disassociated mind with him. Structured as a reimagining of Dante’s Divine Comedy, that mind, on ibogaine, becomes a vast, vinyl-shaped maze through which Geoff navigates his past, present and future in an attempt to escape the clutches of the drug.

Those looking for Thursday tour stories or the inner scoop on No Devotion or Martin Shkreli – the notorious pharma bro who funded Geoff’s Collect record label – won’t find much of that stuff here beyond a few mentions. They’re the setting, not the story, the background colour, not the focus. They’re also not that important. Because between the grooves of his downward inner spiral, behind his blacked-out eyes, beyond his near-fatal disassociation, the most important thing is the strength of the love between Geoff and his partner, Liza. Indeed, Someone Who Isn’t Me is a testament to everything – in fact, is everything – he went through to keep hold of her and their love, after his addiction threatened to tear it all apart. It’s an astonishingly special, staggeringly beautiful, and incredibly rare thing.

That he captured it – all of it – so well in this wonderfully written book – think John Fante, Jack Kerouac, Denis Johnson, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac – shows that he’s much more than Geoff from Thursday and No Devotion. He is a true, bona fide literary talent who can stand proudly alongside any of those giants.

Verdict: 5/5

Someone Who Isn’t Me is out now via Rose Books

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