Friday, August 14, 2015

Acid Alex

Acid Alex is a story of hideous child abuse, brutal institutions and wild rebellion. It veers between abject mistreatment, religious hysteria and narcotic intoxication, while journeying deep into the violent underworld of Cape Town gangs and international organized crime, then behind the cold bars of prison and out the other side. Much more than the story of an alternate and differently lived life, every person who wants to fully grasp the complexities and richness of South Africa's social architecture should read this book. Hailed as a great book of reference, not only invaluable for checking facts and culture, but also for feeling the pureness of South Africa's socio-emotional pulse. A unique story told in a unique voice. Acid Alex will shock you, assault, educate and entertain you, and take you on a trip beyond your wildest imagining. A compelling, totally gripping page-turner and a story that reaches deep into ... and, touches the soul."

Nominated for both the Alan Paton and the Bookseller's Choice Award in South Africa – “Acid Alex” is the autobiography of Al Lovejoy, a South African and self-confessed former organized crime boss. Written as personal therapy, the brutally honest bildungsroman rocked South African literature and launched Lovejoy’s career as a writer, media figure and children’s activist in 2005. Currently, Al Lovejoy is a professional fine-arts photographer with exhibitions in South Africa and the European Union. He and his wife Natasha are the proud parents of a beautiful little boy named Robert.

Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
4He made it
By J. Pietersen
Acid Alex is not your average autobiography; this vivid and candid life story is to other biograpies what LSD is to paracetamol.

Following Alex's life from (then) Rhodesia to South Africa and across borders as he starts smuggling marijuana is a roller coaster ride of intrigue, abuse, frustration, incarceration, Christian rehab centres, violence, survival and, finally, redemption. South Africa has had its share of exceptional personalities, and Alex must be counted as one of them.

The book is an easy read but be warned: it is NOT for the faint hearted. Al (as he's now known) will shock and offend all but the most blase reader as he describes his experiences with the frankness of a razor blade. He is not only graphically descriptive and brutally honest but his life led him through the worst South Africa of the late 1900s had to offer. He's experienced the worst of child abuse, the border war, jails and the low life of the Cape Flats. That he survived is enough reason to to write a book, but that he came out the other side a better person than most of us is what makes the book more than a gripping read. Despite his past Alex is one of the very few people on Earth that did not succumb to but rose above his past. Instead of becoming a victim of circumstance, for which he has every excuse to be, he became a master of his destiny, committed to saving other children at the start of the same race he had to run. In a way his story mirrors the story of South Africa, a country that, through the inspiring leadership of Nelson Mandela, rose above its past.

After reading a borrowed copy of the book (from the first edition) I was stunned to find that Al and I live in the same town, and was honoured to briefly meet this exceptional individual.

Do not buy Acid Alex if you are even moderately sensitive. But if language will not offend and hell won't frighten, and if rising above all odds is what grips you then Acid Alex is the one biography you must read.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
4Life As a Trip
By katherine tomlinson
An autobiography in the form of a novel, ACID ALEX chronicles Al Lovejoy's story of his life as a child in reform school, conscript, prisoner, international drug smuggler and addict.

Al was born in 1963 in a "beautiful bitter country once called Rhodesia." He never knew who his parents were but to outward appearances, he was a white baby. In those days, that was important. He was put into a Catholic Home as a ward of the Crown and named JOHN. He was a year old when he suffered an accident that had him flatlining on the table. The young surgeon was too idealistic to simply let him go and in retrospect, Lovejoy wonders if it might not have been better if he had.

This book is a wild ride through a life filled with abuse, action, redemption and pain. It veers from blackly humorous to horrifyingly bleak and doesn't really give the reader much breathing space in between.

It is a swift and ...intense... read and never ever dull--even as we find ourselves recoiling from some of the details of Al's early life. The author has a knack for just the right turn of phrase and when he describes a colleague ahs having "beautiful rock star hair" we "get" that person immediately.

He also has a real feel for creating characters too and many of those characters are memorable. He tells the reader up front that he's going to be as truthful as he can, but the book is considered a novel by reviewers. In short, the truth is somewhere in between the black and the white.

Al himself is quite a character. We meet him when he's one year old, and involved in a horrific accident he does not quite remember, but which left half of his body in a cast. He remembers quite a bit about what happened next and most of it is terrible. Because he really is a fantastic writer, we are drawn into his world and can only gasp at the cruelty of some of the people he meets along the way. (There are kind people too, but they all seem to be dead--some by violence.)

Everyone we meet--from his childhood tormenters to his eventual "colleagues" to the cops who want to catch him--come vividly off the pages. The writing here is kinetic, as if Lovejoy were the bastard child of Hunter S. Thompson and William Burroughs. He's stuffed it full of South African words and phrases and slang (there's a glossary at the back), but after awhile, we assimilate the words and don't need to refer to the dictionary any more. The book is a little nonlinear. Sometimes the writer will stop at the end of a chapter and tell the reader what happened to a certain character or fill us in on the effects of an event. It's a little disconcerting.

This book shares a lot in common with other memoirs of shady days and misspent youth--everything from SHAMBALA to A MILLION LITTLE PIECES comes to mind--it is a much livelier read. in fact, the freewheeling time and plotlines make reading the book something of a psychedelic experience in itself.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
5written with the force of a 'Cape Doctor"
reviews give you a tame objective insight into this wild adventure, Al's writing creates a vivid 3D mental image as you are emotionally tossed about in his world .this is a biography, not fiction, and i was unable to put it down till the last page. the adrenaline was sustained for several days after as i processed all the mayhem.A riveting read.highly recommended for anyone with a sense of adventure and if Cape Town of that era was familiar stomping ground then this multicultural chameleon alternative travelogue will not disappoint.phew

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