It’s hard to get your kid to eat their veggies when you’ve fallen behind on your drug debt to them.
Published in May 2014, Liam Pieper’s memoir, The Feel-Good Hit of the Year, chronicles his life as the child of hippy, weed-loving parents, growing up in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s in Melbourne.
With such a bohemian family, Pieper was never going to have a conventional life. He was born in 1984 in the family home, a rundown old house called Labassa, inhabited by a mix of artists, beatniks, and drug addicts. A few years later, the family moved out to the suburbs, but this didn’t curtail their love of drugs and the frequency of weed in the house meant that Pieper first smoked pot at 12. By the time he was in his early years of high school he was a successful drug dealer, his parents some of his best customers. “It made negotiating pocket money awkward. I thought I should get more as I was dealing to them at cost price, but they didn’t see it that way.”
Pieper could have easily been cocky and boastful when narrating the risky days of dealing drugs. As a kid he felt he had to learn martial arts, carry weapons, and adopt what he thought was a threatening swagger, in order to conduct his business. “I came to convince myself I was a gangster,” he writes. Pieper has gained maturity due to a healthy distance from his old lifestyle and can now write with humour about what he was and how he thinks he was perceived. “…people must have been confused at the chubby, ponytailed androgyne twitching down the street like a traumatised chimp who’d escaped from a Krispy Kreme research facility.” Pieper’s witty sparks are original, frequent, and inspire some truly laugh out loud moments. They also show that despite the lows Pieper sank to through a life of addiction and crime, he owns a sense of humility and the ability to laugh at himself.
The Feel-Good Hit of the Year is born at a time when many in Australia are only focussed on the illegalities of drug taking. Instead Pieper keeps it simple when talking about the reasons why he would use, “If I was responsible, I would say that addiction made me keep doing drugs long after they were fun, but of course that’s bullshit. They’re always fun. That’s the point.”
He chronicles the pain of losing loved ones to drugs, whether by overdose or simply by driving people away as a consequence of his own choices. There is a vividness to Pieper’s grief which he describes as “a long, dark night in a wet sleeping bag at a shitty music festival.”
For readers who are far removed from a life of addiction and getting high there is much in this memoir to devour: the witty humour and original writing, the familial relationships, the spotlight on suburban Aussie hedonistic lifestyles, love, and a young man’s life journey in which he gets to know himself as a sober person, all serve to build a powerful story.