Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Dry

Alcohol is known as a social lubricant. I’ve been known to use it in very stressful situations like, fifth grade.

And when it comes to alcohol, I’m a lightweight. And I am one of those Asians who turns red after one sip. One night, I drank so much that afterwards I went to a reservation and built a casino.

Being a lightweight makes me a cheap date. One glass of wine and I’ll go to bed with you, make you breakfast in the morning and then nag you the rest of the week for not taking the garbage out. Two glasses and I’ll start bitching about your mother and how nobody’s ever good enough for her son.

In “Dry,” author Augusten Burroughs, narrates the story of his descent into alcohol, drugs and poor hygiene: he was so coked out of his mind he had started using Irish Spring.

Ok, maybe that wasn’t in the book, but in one scene where Augusten wakes up in an alley after a coke binge, clothes dirty and hair matted down, I could only think about how horrible it must be to have to face his hairdresser.

Augusten Burroughs is most famously compared to another gay author David Sedaris which probably really ticks Burroughs off. The toughest thing Sedaris ever had to deal with was having a domineering mother. Who hasn’t had that? My own mother was domineering and I grew up ok--all my ex-boyfriends would tell you that through their lawyers, since they all have restraining orders against me.

While there are similarities to the two authors’ style--they both use personal experience and have a certain gay sensibility, like how they talk about sports and girls all the time instead of their feelings--I think of Sedaris as a humorist, like Nora Ephron or Erma Bombeck. Burroughs is more of a storyteller, I think, and more satisfying. He never descends into self-pity with his addiction. In a way, I think he is most honest, most matter-of-fact in the darkest moments in the book.

In one such moment, Augusten walks into his apartment for the first time after spending thirty days in rehab and is greeted by a something he’s never seen before in the cold light of sobriety. There were empty Dewar’s bottles, hundreds of them, on all flat surfaces and in dark corners, as if they multiplied while he was gone, although nobody’s been in there.

Another character, with terminal breast cancer, muses about how she didn’t realize the insidiousness of alcoholism:

“Back when I was drinking, when I thought nothing [bad] had ever happened to me, something did. A lot of time passed. In bars, at parties with people I didn’t care for. It wasn’t about love or reading the Sunday paper in bed or anything that people call ‘life.’ It was always about drinking. So actually, something bad, very bad, did happen to me. I wasted my life.”

But before you think that this book is a downer, it’s not. It’s a book with a real message: that life is about living, not to drink and withdraw from.

Burroughs writing style is very engaging and there is never a dull moment in the book. The book was at times graphic in the descriptions of the horrors of working retail. And I think the book is quite aptly titled: it is quite witty and very, very dry.



Thank you, Jimi. I really enjoyed this book.

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