Letters

Letters 09-29-2014

Benishek Doesn’t Understand

Congressman Benishek claims to understand the needs of families, yet he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would cause about 10 million people to lose their health insurance. He must think as long as families can hold fundraisers they don’t need insurance...

(Un)Truth In Advertising

Constant political candidate ads on TV are getting to be too much to bear 45 days before the election...

Rare Tuttle Rebuttal

Finally, I disagree with Stephen Tuttle. His “Cherry Bomb” column in the 8/4/14 issue totally dismayed me. I always love his wit and the slamming of the 1 percent. His use of fact and hyperbole highlights the truth; until “Cherry Bomb.” Oh man, Stephen...

Say No To Fluoride

Do you or your child’s teeth have white, yellow, orange, brown, stains, spots, streaks, cloudy splotches or pitting? If so, you may be among millions of Americans who now have a condition called dental fluorosis...

Questions Of Freedom

The administration’s “Affordable Health Care Act” has ordered religious orders to provide contraception and chemical abortions against the church’s God given beliefs and teachings … an interesting order, considering the First Amendment’s clear prohibitions...

Stop The Insults & Talk

I found it interesting that Ms. Minervini used the Northern Express to push the Safe Harbor agenda for a 90-bed homeless shelter in Traverse City with a tactic that is also being utilized by members of the city commission. Those of us who oppose the project are being labeled as uncompassionate citizens...

Roads and Republicans

Each time you hit a road crater while driving, thank the “nerd” and the Tea Party controlled Republican legislature.

Home · Articles · News · Books · Dry is Anything But
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Dry is Anything But

Nancy Sundstrom - July 10th, 2003
After surviving James Frey’s powerful and harrowing “A Million Little Pieces,“ I thought it might be a while before I delved into an addiction saga again, but the buzz (no pun intended) for “Dry: A Memoir“ by Augusten Burroughs has been so strong, that it looked like it shouldn’t be ignored.
It turns out to be the case.
Burroughs is the author of the bestseller “Running With Scissors,“ and those who know that work should be well-prepped for this latest chronicle of his endlessly fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking life. The good news is that just like that one, his tale of trying to “out-drink his memories, outlast his demons, and outrun his past“ is insightful, darkly funny, and brutally honest. Even in its darkest moments, though, it is a more complex and accomplished work. One of its triumphs is that we care throughout about Burroughs, even when he doesn’t care for himself.
With his tortured and brilliant mind, it probably is not much of a surprise that Burroughs was destined for an ill-fated love affair with alcohol. A if he didn’t have enough reason already to be drowning his sorrows, he turns to alcohol as a means of coping with the selling of his soul as an advertising executive in Manhattan. It’s not long before things get way out of control.
In the opening chapter, “Just Do It,“ we get a crash-course orientation to Burroughs’ world and the role adrinking plays in it:

“It‘s Tuesday evening and I‘m home. I‘ve been home for twenty minutes and am going through the mail. When I open a bill, it freaks me out. For some reason, I have trouble writing checks. I postpone this act until the last possible moment, usually once MY account has gone into collection. It‘s not that I can‘t afford the bills-I can-it‘s that I panic when faced with responsibility. I am not used to rules and structure and so I have a hard time keeping the phone connected and the electricity turned on. I place all my bills in a box, which I keep next to the stove. Personal letters and cards get slipped into the space between the computer on my desk and the printer.
My phone rings. I let the machine pick up.
“Hey, it‘s Jim ... just wanted to know if you wanna go out for a quick drink. Gimme a call, but try and get back ––“
As I pick up the machine screeches like a strangled cat. “Yes, definitely,“ I tell him. “My blood alcohol level is dangerously low.“
“Cedar Tavern at nine,“ he says.
Cedar Tavern is on University and Twelfth and I‘m on Tenth and Third, just a few blocks away. Jim‘s over on Twelfth and Second. So it‘s a fulcrum between us. That‘s one reason I like it. The other reason is because their martinis are enormous; great bowls of vodka soup. “See you there,“ I say and hang up...We have four drinks at Cedar Tavern. Maybe five. Just enough so that I feel loose and comfortable in my own skin, like a gymnast. Jim suggests we hit another bar. I check my watch: almost ten-thirty I should head home now and go to sleep so I‘m fresh in the morning. But then I think, Okay, what‘s the latest I can get to sleep and still be okay? If I have to be there at nine, I should be up by seven-thirty, so that means I should get to bed no later than-I begin to count on my fingers because I cannot do math, let alone in my head-twelve-thirty. “Where you wanna go?“ I ask him...
The very last thing I remember is standing on a stage at a karaoke bar somewhere in the West Village. The spotlights are shining in my face and I‘m trying to read the video monitor in front of me, which is scrolling the words to the theme from The Brady Bunch. I see double unless I close one eye, but when I do this I lose my balance and stagger. Jim‘s laughing like a madman in the front row, pounding the table with his hands.
The floor trips me and I fall. The bartender walks from behind the bar and escorts me offstage. His arm feels good around my shoulders and I want to give him a friendly nuzzle or perhaps a kiss on the mouth. Fortunately, I don‘t do this.
Outside the bar, I look at my watch and slur, “This can‘t be right.“ I lean against Jim‘s shoulder so I don‘t fall over on the tricky sidewalk...The watch reads 4:15 A.M. Impossible. I wonder aloud why it is displaying the time in Europe instead of Manhattan.“

Given this fast track he’s on with this slippery slope of behavior, Burroughs lands in rehab at the insistence of his coworkers, go get tired of his showing up at meeting reeking of booze. He envisions rehab as yet another adventure, but is sent off to a center for gys and lesbians in Minnesota where his dreams of group therapy with Robert Downey Jr. are immediately dashed by grim reality of fluorescent lighting and paper hospital slippers. And once out of rehab, he has to cope with to return to his lifestyle, but do it dry.
In Burroughs’ more than capable hands, this tale isn’t a pretty sight, but at the same time, it’s hard not to laugh. In the end, the book feels much like his real-life experience must have been, an amazing journey that confirms that redemption is always possible while avoiding every cliche that evokes that thought.
“Dry“ is anything but, managing to be simultaneously nutty and Dickensian and ironically, sometimes as heady as a full-bodied cocktail. Along with self-pity, there’s no sentimentality or predictably drawn characters here, again effectively convincing readers that there’s little Burroughs doesn’t seem capable of accomplishing - either in the literary or the real world.

 
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