I first came across the DVD of Candy, a film starring Heath Ledger, on the New Releases shelf at Blockbuster in the spring of 2007. A longtime fan of Ledger’s work, from 10 Things I Hate About You, a guilty pleasure I enjoyed in my teens, to his masterful performance in Brokeback Mountain, I eagerly flipped the DVD to read the film’s synopsis, then promptly put it back on the shelf.
Candy is a love story centered on the destructive relationship a couple has with their addiction to Heroin and each other.
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of drug use, especially its glorification in pop culture. I’ve never so much as smoked a cigarette, a conscious choice I made many years ago. Watching the unraveling of a close family friend who struggled for years with crack addiction, I’ve seen what drugs do to a person, what addicts are capable of. Thankfully, I never needed to go there myself.
Also, I’d read Trainspotting in college in addition to viewing the film for a course I took on Scotland’s national identity. It wasn’t cute when Ewan McGregor shot up in that film, so I wasn’t keen on seeing Heath Ledger do the same in another film about descending into a life fueled by smack. That is, until now.
Last week I attended a literary event at the independent bookstore, Book Soup, located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Five writers whose pieces were included in the inaugural issue of slake, a Los Angeles-based literary magazine, were there to read their work. When Australian poet, novelist, screenwriter, and essayist Luke Davies began reading from his personal essay, The Cisco Kid, about his childhood obsession with America through its depiction on television and in B-movies, I could relate. I too was seduced by Hollywood. Captivated by his story, I wanted to hear more.
You can read the intro to his piece here: http://slake.la/features/the-cisco-kid
Luke Davies is also the author of Candy, the novel on which the film is based. The book is a fictional account but it contains certain truths from Davies own experience during his years of heroin addiction. As I listened to his beautifully written story of longing for America – and a life more glamorous than his own experience growing up in Sydney – I wondered what had happened to that boy. What made him turn to drugs? And how did that chapter of his life finally end?
After the reading, I introduced myself to Davies and we spoke briefly about writing, Los Angeles, and Reality TV. He was delightful and engaging and signed my copy of the magazine, “for Diana best wishes Luke Davies Sunset Boulevard 9/8/10.” It tickles me that he noted the location where our lives happened to intersect. It is fitting that we should meet here in Los Angeles, the sprawling metropolis that called out to each of us as children, its beacon stretching East across the wide spans of America, reaching me in Philadelphia, and West across the Pacific Ocean to Sydney on Australia’s East Coast. Of course it would be here, where we’ve each taken up residence, that we should cross paths on the most iconic of streets.
Candy has now moved to the top of my Netflix DVD queue. I’m finally ready to view it with an open mind. I see now that it’s not really about heroin. It’s about life. Choices. Journey.
I’ve also stumbled across Luke’s blog; I found it after the cursory Google search of his name, which yielded first the Wikipedia bio, Amazon book listings, and YouTube clips of readings and interviews he’s given. In one blog entry dated November 2007, Davies describes his first Thanksgiving so brilliantly without giving way to cliché:
“When I got back from the rain trip it was Thanksgiving, my first ever first-hand experience of the ritual. It’s been fertile ground in films about dysfunctional families coming together to collectively sprinkle salt in wounds, but I was fortunate to be invited to a mellow lovefest, complete with Louisiana cooking.”
Yes, I will definitely read Candy. And Totem, his most recent collection of poetry. I am drawn to good writing, it inspires me, fuels me to keep going with my own work.