Everything Harder Than Everyone Else

June 1, 2021

When Jenny Valentish wrote a memoir about addiction in 2017, she noticed that people who treated drug-taking like an Olympic sport would often hurl themselves into a pursuit like marathon running upon giving up. What stayed constant was the need to push their boundaries.

Everything Harder Than Everyone Else: What Outliers and Outsiders Can Teach Us About Endurance follows people doing the things that most couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t. By delving into their extreme behaviour, there’s a lot that us mere mortals can learn about the human condition.

There’s the neuroscientist violating his brain to override his disgust response. The athlete using childhood adversity as grist for the mill. The wrestler turning restlessness into curated ultraviolence. The architect hanging from hooks in her flesh, to better get out of her head. The performance artist seeking erasure by torturing his body. The BDSM dom helping people flirt with death to feel more alive. The bare-knuckle boxer whose gnarliest opponent is her ego. The dancer who could not separate her identity from her practice until at death’s door. The bodybuilder exacting order on a life that was once chaotic. And the porn star-turned-fighter for whom sex and violence are two sides of the same coin.

Their insights lead Jenny on a compulsive, sometimes reckless journey of immersion journalism.

Woman of Substances

Woman of Substances was published by Black Inc in Australia in June 2017 and was nominated for a Walkley Book Award. A UK version will be published by Head of Zeus/Anima in June 2018. In it, journalist Jenny Valentish investigates the female experience of drugs and alcohol, using her own story to light the way. Her travels around Australia take her to treatment facilities and AA groups. Mining the expertise of 30 leading researchers, she explores the early predictors of addiction, such as childhood trauma and temperament, and teenage impulsivity. Drawing on neuroscience, she explains why other self-destructive behaviours – such as eating disorders, compulsive buying and high-risk sex – are interchangeable with problematic substance use. Valentish follows the pathways that women, in particular, take into addiction – and out again. Woman of Substances is an insightful, rigorous and brutally honest read.

Cherry Bomb

‘This is the last time you’ll see us!’ Rose yelled unscripted, her shoulder blades digging into my back. There was a cry of crowd confusion and my brain seared red, white and black with fury. I lobbed my mic hard towards the wings, where it landed with a deafening thud, but a roadie trotted on with it again a few seconds later. It was hopeless, like trying to dispose of a stick with a labrador around.

SYNOPSIS: Word is The Dolls got their record deal through nepotism, but if it wasn’t for Nina sleeping with the right people they wouldn’t be anywhere at all. Now her aunt’s career is threatening to take off again and eclipse her own, and nobody likes her new material. A stretch in rehab’s starting to look like a good career move.

Cherry Bomb was published by Allen and Unwin in 2014 and is available for Kindle or by post.