By Koppy McFad
January 2, 2010 - 00:22
Those expecting this book to be about some skid-row wino will be disappointed. The lead character is actually pretty successful. He was a jock in college and soon becomes a successful writer who is popular with the ladies and has no shortage of friends to help him.
But Jonathan A's problems go beyond drinking. He seems to be emotionally brittle and obsessive. A fight with his best friend, a break-up with his girlfriend and the 9/11 attacks all send him off the deep end, prompting him to turn to drink and even to drugs.
Although he is aware of his problem-- and even goes through long periods of sobriety-- the protagonist seems to fall over and over again, even when he has a chance to heal himself and move forward.
The story might become tiresome and even irritating but the narration lifts it up, with the writer showing complete awareness of the absurdity of his situation. Jonathan A., while self-pitying, never blames anyone for his plight, and if anything, seems only too willing to re-live his embarassments and failures for all to see. There are many funny situations, but the comedy comes from seeing how the protagonist innocently gets into trouble rather than showing a drunk deliberately starting fights or setting fire to his surroundings.
The art is simple but heartfelt. There are few 'psychedelic' scenes showing the lead character's drunen visions. Instead, we get very human-- and realistic depictions of a normal guy having a very bad time.
This book is not for everyone. Some people may find the lead character to be too much of a weakling to empathise with. The strange side stories (including one involving Monica Lewinsky) also detract from the focus of the main story. It is almost like the writer felt he just had to get a Lewinsky story off his chest.
But it is still an absorbing story that does not glamourise or trivialise its subject matter but still manages to give a unique tale on an overused topic.
Rating: 8 /10