The Weirdest of the Weird Books Gen-Xers bought at Waldenbooks
Go Ask Alice (and Jay) about Satanic Panic
If you are a Gen-Xer, at some point you probably ran across Go Ask Alice, with its mysterious cover and author, Anonymous. Go Ask Alice, published in the early 1970’s, is technically a Baby Boomer book. Jay’s Journal, the second book in the series, is quintessential Gen-X. Both books were in print throughout the 80’s.
Both books are weird. They propose to be real, but they are usually found on the fiction shelf, and there is little supporting information about them.
Unmask Alice, by Rick Emerson, finally explains the story behind Go Ask Alice along with its author, Beatrice Sparks. It’s about much more than Go Ask Alice, however. You’ll also find out about Jay’s Journal, Alice’s companion piece, along with the other teen journals Sparks edited/wrote (?) in the 1990’s.
Go Ask Alice is supposedly a diary written by a drug addicted middle class teenager that was edited by one Beatrice Sparks, supposedly a Ph.D. Jay’s Journal is supposedly a diary written by a drug addicted teenager who became engulfed in Satanic ritual and worship. It was also supposedly edited by Beatrice Sparks, supposedly a Ph.D.
Along the way, you will read the bizarre story of LSD and the and its supposed short and long term effects. You will read about the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s, a story that might seem supposed except that many Gen-Xers remember it, especially if they were from American Christian families. The reality and extent of Satan worship may be supposed, but not the panic.
Go Ask Alice about Beatrice Sparks
The most far-fetched part of this story is the story of Beatrice Sparks herself. Even her own children don’t really know her background. The only thing we do know is that she never had the work experience or the education she claimed to have. Yet somehow she is one of the bestselling authors of adolescent lit, ever.
There is also a segue way into the art of book cataloguing that probably only a serious book/library nerd will love. I thought it was fascinating myself. You will learn why you should never take anything at face value, even the legalese you find on the title page.
Unmask Alice is a fast read; it comes across almost like a work for young adults. In fact, Emerson even decided to forgo traditional citations. It’s not think ok to leave off citations because “you can look it up for yourself.” It’s lazy. Regardless, Emerson makes enough of a convincing case to keep me reading. It’s harder to prove something doesn’t exist than to prove it does, which is Emerson’s task. You can’t cite what doesn’t exist.
In summary, this book is worth the read just because the story is so fascinating. I’m glad he talked to people involved with it before they all passed away, taking the story with them. I hope his notes are locked away in an archive somewhere.
Sparks’ “journals” and her own story is a look into the reality of Gen-X adolescents and the adults who were there to guide them.
If you have ever wondered why these books seem so weird, take the time to read Unmask Alice.
You will enjoy this foray into one of the strange but true corners of Gen-X reality.
How we read Unmask Alice:
Lois checked out Unmask Alice through Libby and her local library.