by Ray Shell
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Pub Date 10 Oct 2023 | Archive Date 05 Dec 2023
“Iced is a powerhouse. . . . Ray Shell writes beautifully. The story is heartbreaking. I kept putting it down and picking it up again—it won’t let me go.”—Maya Angelou
A timeless tale of one man’s decline into the depths of addiction that is at both a shocking study of the addict’s life, and a deeply compelling and often uplifting tale of human love and loss.
First published at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic thirty years ago, Ray Shell’s “powerhouse” (Maya Angelou) of a novel is as timely and relevant today as it was in 1994. It is the story of Cornelius Washington, a young upper-middle-class Black man blessed with burning talent and ambition, who enjoys experimenting with drugs—a dangerous pastime that gradually becomes a destructive addiction. Now a middle-aged crackhead, Cornelius ponders his life and the choices that have led him here.
Written as a series of immersive stream of consciousness diary entries, Iced captures the despair and dashed dreams of a man caught between the harsh realities of his present and the adventures and upheavals of his past—a youth marked by a host of characters both intriguing and terrifying.
A complicated man both compelling and maddening, sympathetic and defiant, Cornelius tries desperately to break free from his addiction, a struggle that ends in defeat time and time again. Despite the thought loops that lead to his bad choices, this painfully realistic character elicits hope for his survival, even though he will likely meet a devastating end.
Resonant and haunting, illuminating and heartbreaking, Iced paints a portait of being Black in America, and the ways in which marginalized communities are targeted and ignored, left to suffer the consequences of policies made by powerful people ignorant and uncaring of their lives. It is a novel that transcends time, offering a glimpse of the past that is present in our lives today.