Widely pilloried at the time of publication, Jose Canseco’s “Juiced” receives a very different retrospective critique from Bryan Curtis of the New York Times’ Play Magazine, who considers the rogue half of the Bash Brothers “one of the most intrepid sportswriters of his era.”
Taking locker-room verisimilitude to the extreme, Jose Canseco told of how he sneaked into bathroom stalls and (his word) œinjected his pal and fellow slugger Mark McGwire with steroids. Canseco™s was not a cautionary tale of drug abuse, however. œJuiced was an over-the-top testimonial to the powers of steroids, which Canseco argued could œcure certain diseases, along with making you œstronger and sexier and œmore easily aroused. In this, Canseco appears to be the first memoirist to be influenced by both Wilt Chamberlain and Baba Ram Dass.
The lunkhead had a point. Canseco™s book started a congressional inquiry, and none of the book™s more lurid allegations has been effectively refuted. (Rafael Palmeiro, whom Canseco fingered as a user, later failed a drug test and was suspended.) While œJuiced strayed past the bounds of self-parody, I think Canseco may have unwittingly written one of the most harrowing portraits of the modern athlete. Canseco was seemingly rich beyond his wildest dreams, awash in sex (he alternately flirted with Madonna and Hooters waitresses) and had a head that was big with or without pharmacological enhancement. But when he picked up a pencil, a funny thing happened. He came crashing down to earth. On the page, he was less a buffoonish, larger-than-life figure and more a real human being. And an extraordinarily sad one at that: œJuiced reaches a kind of climax with Canseco sitting in his Florida mansion, cradling a machine gun and contemplating suicide.
Word is that Canseco is at work on a sequel to œJuiced, which he has tentatively titled œVindicated. I wanted to ask Canseco about his literary process, but he said, through his manager, that he would speak with me only if I paid for the privilege. I couldn™t help but imagine Canseco hunched over his laptop, discarding drafts and wondering where his next paycheck was going to come from. As a mere mortal, I found some comfort in this. If you think playing left field is difficult, try being a writer.