"At just 27 years old, Sam Lansky has lived three lifetimes...[An] eye-opening new memoir."
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Sharply funny and compulsively readable, The Gilded Razor is a "powerful addition to the literature of active addiction and recovery" (New York Times bestselling author Bill Clegg) from debut author Sam Lansky.
The Gilded Razor is the true story of a double life that New York Times bestselling author George Hodgman called "virtuosic." By the age of seventeen, Sam Lansky was an all-star student with Ivy League aspirations in his final year at an elite New York City prep school. But a nasty addiction to prescription pills spiraled rapidly out of control, compounded by a string of reckless affairs with older men, leaving his bright future in jeopardy. After a terrifying overdose, he tried to straighten out. Yet as he journeyed from the glittering streets of Manhattan, to a wilderness boot camp in Utah, to a psych ward in New Orleans, he only found more opportunities to create chaos-until finally, he began to face himself.
In the vein of Elizabeth Wurtzel and Augusten Burroughs, Lansky scrapes away at his own life as a young addict and exposes profoundly universal anxieties. Told with remarkable sensitivity, biting humor, and unrelenting self-awareness, The Gilded Razor is a coming-of-age story of searing honesty and lyricism and "one of the best portraits about the implacable power of addiction" (Susan Cheever, bestselling author of Drinking in America).
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"Sam Lansky is too young to have lived through all he’s lived through—and too young to have written about it with such insight. The Gilded Razor takes the reader on a painfully evocative journey from which too many never return. With virtuosic prose, he shows you how he tries and fails and tries and tries until he finally survivesat age 19. His story moves and compels, but it’s the writing that keeps you reading.
"From the first page I was so staggered by this young man's extraordinary voice I burst into tears. The Gilded Razor is so exquisitely crafted, so devastatingly moving, so brutally honest I found myself torn between overwhelming admiration and seething jealousy that I didn't write it. This is far from your average addiction memoir. It's just a goddamn brilliant book."
"Sam Lansky in his memoir The Gilded Razora peripatetic tale of pills and promiscuityturns Manhattan into a kind of Bret Easton Ellis Island. Lansky guides us, with a voice all his own, through the chaos of his addiction into a clearing where sobriety awaits him. It is a book filled with, to quote Lansky at one point in his narrative, ‘too many beautiful people doing too many ugly things.’ Yet, through the beauty of Lansky's writing, the ugliness subsides and a kind of hard-won hope takes its place. 'You're a miracle,' his mother tells him at one point. He is."
In this wonderful, compelling book, Sam Lansky has created a charismatic teenage narrator who shows that addiction is no respecter of class, education or intelligence. If you’re a parent this book will scare you, even as you enjoy its charming, spritely brilliance. The Gilded Razor is one of the best portraits I’ve read about the implacable power of addiction.
"This raw, beautifully observed memoir both terrifies and inspires."
Sam Lansky is a beautiful writer. If he weren’t an addict, his first book would be about something else, but I have no doubt it would be great, as is his memoir The Gilded Razor. But Sam Lansky is an addict, and he has made something fine and useful and lasting from his struggle. His account of using, hitting bottom and getting sober at an astonishingly young age is a powerful addition to the literature of active addiction and recovery. I look forward to seeing what more he makes.
“The Gilded Razor is Lansky’s searing, savagely honest memoir of his wild days… harrowing throughout — and undeniably hopeful in the end."
"This raw, beautifully observed memoir both terrifies and inspires."
"Dark but brutally honest."
Lansky’s recounting of the prescription-drug addiction that over-whelmed his last years at an elite prep school—and subsequent boot camps and psych wards he slogged through—is as funny as it is dark.
Time editor Lansky delivers a gut-wrenching exposé of his adolescence, a period filled with a steady diet of drugs, prescription and street, and one-night stands with older men. During the day, Lansky attended an elite New York City prep school and aspired to enroll at Princeton, but at night, he slipped out of his father's apartment to snort cocaine, take large doses of Adderall, Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, and other drugs, drink too much alcohol, and have sex with strangers he'd met online or in bars and clubs. The writing is raw and haunting, encouraging readers to keep turning the pages as the author describes countless situations where he shouldn't have made it through the night but did. He delves into the distress he felt over his parents' divorce and the semi-lack of compassion he felt his father showed him at the time. "My father expressed some low-level concern over how many pills I had been prescribed," he writes, "but my grades were up, which suggested that [the doctor's] cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs was working. Yet I was sickly, pallid, temperamental, and always covered in a thin film of sweat, even in the dead of winter. I never ate, except for occasional, extraordinary binges that left me ill for days; I slept perhaps once a week, for twenty-four hours straight." Lansky also explores his relationships during that time, mostly older men who had no real intentions of staying with him. The narrative's best moments are the author's thoughts on the wonder and wholeness he felt when attending a boot camp rehab center in Utah. Otherwise, the book reads mostly like a confessional written to atone for his sins. A candid, eye-opening memoir of illicit drugs and sex—though, for some readers, it may prove too intimate and too full of semigraphic descriptions of the sex, drugs, and misery he suffered through before finally quitting before he was 20.
Read an Excerpt
The Gilded Razor
For many years after it was over, there were songs I could not listen to, for fear they would take me back there; certain photographs that made me clench my jaw in a particular way; and street corners where, crossing from a subway exit to reach an appointment or a restaurant, I would flash back momentarily to a long-forgotten winter night years earlier and see myself, seventeen years old and spectral in the lamplight, stumbling out of a brownstone with a runny nose and my fly unzipped. My hair would have been too long, probably, from always taking the money my father gave me for a haircut and using it to buy drugs. (“What do you mean, ‘It doesn’t look any different’?” I’d ask, always doe-eyed.) My hands would have been wedged into my pockets because I always forgot to wear gloves. And I would have been walking briskly back to my father’s apartment, eager to get into bed and pretend it never happened.
I say that I would have done so because so often I did, but if I could, I would do it differently. Memory is a funny type of haunting. The subconscious keeps chewing away at sins atoned for long ago. Even after everything has been set right, the body doesn’t forget the places it’s been.
Stockholm. I sleep badly, tossing and turning in my hotel room. In the night, I awake from strange, listless dreams. The furniture turns to gold when I touch it, then crumbles into dust, silken as ash. I’m just tired, I tell myself; it’s just jet lag—the foreignness of a new place. One morning I wake up and the bed is full of glitter. I fall back asleep, and when I awake again, the sheets are crisp and white as fresh snow.
At a fancy party, there’s a champagne toast; I hold my glass up to the light, watching the bubbles fizzle and break as they meet the surface. I set it down on the table unsipped. I am used to that by now. It may not always get better, but it will always get different. That was the promise—the only promise.
There are ghosts around every corner. At a cocktail bar in Södermalm: I am alone at a table, writing in a notebook, when I see a man I recognize, although I can’t say from where. He smiles at me—he knows me, too, and more intimately than I know him. He has a handsome, doleful face. Faces like that all blur together for me now. His name could be Jim, or Steve. He could be an investment banker or a surgeon or a congressman.
He approaches me. Slowly, he reaches out to touch my face and presses a finger against my cheek. I want to ask what he’s doing, but instead I just sit there, frozen. He raises his hand to show me. On the tip of his thumb, there is a speck of glitter.
“Where did that come from?” I ask. We both begin to laugh.
I don’t go home with him because things are different now. But that night, alone in my room, I dream of falling down the stairs in a town house in Boston. I dream that I’m running through the ruddy desert of Utah, with no shoes on, under a silver moon.
I dream that my apartment is full of snow, and there are wolves at the foot of the bed, nipping at my ankles.