Retrospective Narratives: A Review Of Aidan Martin's Euphoric Recall...
When I first started Aidan Martin’s Euphoric Recall I presumed it was a novel, or at least a fictionalised version of events. This was partly because the first chapter is one of the most engaging and arresting I have read in a long time, the style reading like prose. The other reason was that it was clearly concerning an event which happens in the middle of the ‘story’, which is usually thought of as a literary or dramatic device (think Pulp Fiction or Goodfellas). When it then clicked that what I was reading was a memoir everything changed, and the immediacy of what was on the page was taken to another level.
James Kelman, amongst others, talks of the “drama of everyday lives”. By taking away the protective layer of fiction, from both reader and writer, Aidan Martin offers one of the most brave and honest books of recent times. Euphoric Recall sets out Martin’s life of addiction, trauma, violence, mental health issues, and abuse, and the beginning of his road to recovery. In doing so he recounts in vivid detail a time in his life where his addictions always came first to the detriment and distress of those around him, and damage to himself, but even in the darkest times there is a sense of hope which, despite all odds, manages to prevail.
It soon becomes clear that Martin wrote Euphoric Recall not only for self-examination, but also to make the point that sharing experiences with others, no matter how extreme they may seem, can help defeat stigma and shame. There is no wish to apportion blame or seek forgiveness, only to be part of what is a necessary conversation. What should not be overlooked is that it would not have the impact it does if Martin’s writing was not as good as it is. His eye for detail, an uncanny ability to break down and relay his thoughts and actions, and an often wry way with language, means the style is as important as the substance in the success of the book.
Martin goes deep into his own experiences, taking the reader to places that many would never even dream of. Yet, throughout it all, there is a humanity which makes us care despite the horror and brutality which is often depicted on the page. That, in no small part, comes from the kindness found in others - from friends, family, and often strangers who are there to offer support and forgiveness despite everything, literally life-saving at times. It's a stark lesson that understanding and compassion are always better than judgment and quick condemnation, but, like many of the things in life that really matter, it is not always the easiest path.
Euphoric Recall is not an easy read, and nor should it be, but it is one which will help everyone better understand why people lead the lives they do, and that no one is beyond redemption. Aidan Martin has said in interviews that writing this book was a key part of his recovery - this was the personal story he had to tell, one he had to tell it in this way, and only now he has is he ready to tell other people’s. With a novel based in Scotland’s trance scene of the early 2000’s promised, it feels like this is a writer who is only getting started.
You can still hear Aidan talking about Euphoric Recall on the SWH! Podcast.
A version of this review first appeared in SNACK Magazine.