Rugged prose and a rare attention to telling detail have long distinguished Pete Hamill's unique brand of journalism and his universally well received fiction. Twenty years after his last drink, he examines the years he spent as a full-time member of the drinking culture. The result is A Drinking Life, a stirring and exhilarating memoir float is ...
Rugged prose and a rare attention to telling detail have long distinguished Pete Hamill's unique brand of journalism and his universally well received fiction. Twenty years after his last drink, he examines the years he spent as a full-time member of the drinking culture. The result is A Drinking Life, a stirring and exhilarating memoir float is his most personal writing to date. The eldest son of Irish immigrants, Hamill learned from his Brooklyn upbringing during the Depression and World War II that drinking was an essential part of being a man; he only had to accompany his father up the street to the warm, amber-colored world of Gallagher's bar to see that drinking was what men did. It played a crucial role in mourning the death of relatives or the loss of a job, in celebrations of all kinds, even in religion. In the navy and the world of newspapers, he learned that bonds of friendship, romance, and professional camaraderie were sealed with drink. It was later that he discovered that drink had the power to destroy those very bonds and corrode any writer's most valuable tools: clarity, consciousness, memory. It was almost too late when he left drinking behind forever. Neither sentimental nor self-righteous, this is a seasoned writer's vivid portrait of the first four decades of his life and the slow, steady way that alcohol became an essential part of that life. Along the way, he summons the mood of a time and a place gone forever, with the bittersweet fondness of a lifetime New Yorker. It is his best work yet.
Publishers Weekly, 1993-11-22 Hamill's autobiography entails his long odyssey to sobriety. This is not a jeremiad condemning drink, however, but a thoughtful, funny, street-smart reflection on its consequences. To understand Hamill ( Loving Women ), one must know his immigrant parents: Anne, gentle and fair; Billy, one-legged and alcoholic. The first offspring of this union--Republicans in Belfast, Democrats in Brooklyn--Hamill has a special gift for relating the events of his childhood. He recreates a time extinct, a Brooklyn of trolley cars, Dodgers, pails of beer and pals like No Toes Nocera. He recalls such adventures as the Dodgers' 1941 pennant and viewing the liner Normandie lying on its side in the Hudson River. We partake in the glory of V-J day and learn what life in Hamill's neighborhood was centered on: ``Part of being a man was to drink.'' Puberty hits him and booze helps him to overcome his sexual shyness. But Hamill's childhood ended early. After dropping out of high school he lived on his own, working at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and drinking with his workmates. Wanting more, he studied art, soon meeting a nude model named Laura who was a lot different from the neighborhood girls, those ``noble defenders of the holy hymen.'' And escape was always on Hamill's mind. First it was the Navy, then Mexico, but it was always the same--drinking nights which today he can't remember. There were fist-fights and jail time in Mexico and he learned that ``drinking could be a huge fuck you to Authority.'' Back home with a job at the New York Post , he mastered his trade at the Page One bar every morning, drinking with other reporters. Much time was spent in saloons away from his wife and two daughters and he remembers the taunts of his childhood, ``Your old man's an Irish drunk!'' Then one New Year's Eve 20 years ago he noticed all the drunkenness and had his last vodka. When asked why, he said, ``I have no talent for it.'' It may be the only talent Hamill lacks. Author tour. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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