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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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.