Nick Tosches

By Kuba Kaliński (transl. Kuba Kalinski, Nena Argent)
Nick Tosches
Biographical note
Nick Tosches was born in 1949 in Newark, New York, to a family with Italian roots. He’s a writer, journalist, biographer, and poet. He has stated that he barely graduated from high school. Tosches, as befits a serious writer, has had numerous odd jobs. A position as snake catcher in Miami Serpentarium is one of more original. He gained recognition for outstanding biographies of rock stars: “Country”, “Hellfire”, “Unsung Heroes of Rock ’n’ Roll”, “Dino”. When asked about literary influences he answered, “Hesiod, Sappho, Christopher Marlowe, Ezra Pound, William Faulkner, Charles Olson and god knows who else.” He wrote for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. Titles of selected published novels and collections of poetry: “Cut Numbers” (1988); “Trinities” (1994); “Chaldea and I Dig Girls” (1999); “In the Hand of Dante” (2002); “Me and the Devil” (2012).

Subjective Viewpoint: The Last Opium Den

  1. The Last Shelf of Books
  2. I know only one of his short novels, “The Last Opium Den”. During many years the hero of the story traverses continents in search of the last den. I traverse the shelves of books, and finally, after many years, I find it.
  3. Vanity of Melancholy
  4. Andrzej Stasiuk, maybe in “Going to Babadag” (Babadag is a small town somewhere in Romania) describes a road through the Carpathians in Eastern Europe. He climbs up a summit in a car in hope of finding an illumination on the other side but there is only a road down and another mountain. The glare is gone, won’t be, and it’s doubtful if ever there was any. Isn’t it the same with reading books, searching for new authors? I reach for another, a new one, expecting god knows what, but it’s only literature, climbing up a stranger summit. Then there is a view down the hills and the next stories. For Stasiuk’s Carpathian Buddha meditation on emptiness has become a target and not a means to a positive end. Eastern Europe has condemned itself to a necessity of adding a determiner before the word “Europe”, seeking justification in fate. Tosches grandparents emigrated from Italy. Perhaps, judging by the name, they were immigrants from Albania, and Italy was a stop only on the road across the ocean. I left Poland. We didn’t believe in that fate; we didn’t believe in the vanity of the journey, of search, neither in the necessity of return. I can wait years for such illumination as “The Last Opium Den”. Then go even further.
  5. About Drugs by Silence
  6. I’ve tried several times, like many others before me, to describe the narcotic experiences. Nick Tosches has chosen a completely different way. There’s nothing about the trip in his story. Opium remains untouched by words.
  7. Malienland Appropriated by Resentment
  8. A Polish photographer said recently that Facebook is his homeland. At the beginning I treated this confession with caution. A few months have passed and I admit that, in a sense, he was right. “Exercises of Awe” are my motherland. This is my home, wherever I am. Polish malienland has been appropriated by resentment. I mention this in the text devoted to Nick Tosches because of the last sentence of his story. I leave it to the readers to discover its meaning.
  9. Friendship with a Stranger
  10. The story was, probably, originally written as an article for a magazine. It has become something more, a farewell to a vanishing world. That’s why there’s so much nostalgia in it. Frida Kahlo wrote in her diary that, despite all, there has to be a woman somewhere who feels and thinks in the same way as she does. Frida was able to put into words subtle sentiments, remaining equally painful as in her paintings. Tosches has written, seemingly, only a long article but I, like Frida Kahlo’s imaginary reader, have felt that I’m not alone. Man’s friendship, that can’t stand nice words and showing tenderness, is possible between men who have never seen each other. But such a friendship, to exist in real, requires reciprocation.
  11. Trampling Down the Same Paths
  12. My admiration for Tosches has a special literary source. I wrote a novel, its action takes place right there, in the basin of the Mekong River, and opium plays an important role in it, of course. We’ve looked at the same streets and roads; we’ve heard the sounds of the same foreign languages. We’ve come to the same opium no-confessions.
  13. Bitterness
  14. Nick Tosches has a beautiful, masculine face of an aristocrat, whose lips betray bitterness. Is it due to the passage of time?
Nick Tosches - The Last Opium Den
The Last Opium Den
Nick Tosches - Me and the Devil
Me and the Devil
Nick Tosches - Cut Numbers
Cut Numbers
Nick Tosches - In the Hand of Dante
In the Hand of Dante
Nick Tosches - Where Dead Voices...
Where Dead Voices...

Nick Tosches - quotes & fragments

You see, I needed to go to hell. I was, you might say, homesick. But first, by way of explanation, the onion. A friend of mine owns a restaurant that is considered to be one of the best Italian restaurants in New York. As is the case at most other Italian restaurants in Manhattan, the food is prepared by Dominicans or sundry other fellows of more exotic and indiscernible ethnic origin. This particular Third World truffle joint where I take my lunch possesses the added ca-chet of “cucina toscana,” invoking the all-American theme park, Florence, where today one would be hard-pressed to find a vero fiorentino amid the overcrowding herd of estivating tourists that is Dante’s revenge.

I am not going to rhapsodize here about opium. But I will say this: it is the perfect drug. There is nothing else like it. In this age of pharmaceutical-pill pushing, it delivers all that drugs such as Prozac promise. Forget about the medieval-like bugaboo of serotonin, the atrocities of Freud, the iatrogenic “disorders” that compose the Malleus Maleficarum by which today’s shrinks and psychopharmacologists con their vulnerable marks. All the pills and all the whoredom of psychotherapy in the world are nothing compared with the ancient Coptic words of the Gospel of Thomas: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” It is as simple and unsolvable as that. Forget about the interplay of opium and serotonin. Its interplay with the wisdom of the Gospel of Thomas is the thing. Its vapors are of that thing within.

The lamp is lit, the pipe is tilted. I am home.

Once upon a time, when New York City lived and breathed, there was a man marked for death, like us all.

This book will not increase the size of your penis.