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Book Review 263: High on Arrival

January 6, 2013 - Harry Eagar
HIGH ON ARRIVAL, by Mackenzie Phillips. 292 pages, illustrated. Simon and Schuster.

“High on Arrival” is a beautifully written memoir about – nothing, really.

It came out in 2009, and before starting this review I had to check to see if she's still sober. Apparently yes.

If about anything, “High on Arrival” is about her father, John, who was dead when this was published and who never has a voice in the book, only an overwhelming presence.

“We were kids of privilege who could have anything we desired except what we really wanted – a connection with our parents,” she writes.

Sad and not really true. Mackenzie Phillips didn't really want to be brutally raped when she was a child, no doubt. She now thinks she did not want to be a drug addict most of her life. She never wanted her dear cousin to be murdered with a “hot shot” overdose.

She and her father are poor candidates as models for those libertarians who think the war on drugs has been a failure and would prefer to just legalize the stuff. Thanks to their money, fame and influence, the Phillipses were practically living a drug-legal world.

They could get as much of what they wanted as they wanted, with only slight concern about the authorities. Even when, after many years, they did encounter the law, they wriggled free with minor inconvenience.

Actions that get ordinary people decades in prison got them, at worst, a short time in rehab.

“You always take others down with you,” Mackenzie Phillips says. The key word is down. Hers was a miserable life.

She claims to have done cocaine around the clock for long periods. It seems almost impossible that she could have done so much, but perhaps so.

In any event, she claimed to have cleaned up for over a decade. Then she started again, this time with pain pills.

At the time of writing “High on Arrival,” she was 50 and, she says, clean again.

At least she didn't find Jesus.


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