Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Q and D Review - Drunkard: a Hard-Drinking Life

Writing reviews of books is intimidating. This is especially true of memoirs because it doesn't seem as much a review as a judgment about someone's life and what I perceive to be their personality or character.

I didn't much care for the man Steinberg revealed himself to be. Someone who didn't seem to realize the line he crossed when he slapped his wife and ripped the phone from wall. I do, however, care for his writing. The guy can write.

My reaction most likely has to do with something in my life story. I used to direct a court-based program to protect people who had been physically assaulted by a family member or domestic partner. In my experience, Steinberg fits my perception of an abuser. Namely, abusers almost always minimize their abusive actions. Many abusers also blame alcohol use as the cause of their behavior without getting to the source of their anger. This is a person who has spent much of his adult life intoxicated, but the only person he ever assaulted and threatened with violence is his wife. Shows some selectivity despite the influence of alcohol.

This episode of domestic violence was, thankfully, taken seriously by Steinberg's wife and the Chicago justice system. I kept waiting for Steinberg to express some fear over "losing control" and becoming a violent monster in the eyes of his family again -- drunk or sober. It never came, at least it was never articulated in his book. He also never addressed how striking his wife might influence his young sons' relationships with girls and women as they grow up and become men.

I like to read books about how people find ways to overcome bad stuff in their lives. Drunkard is excellent example. Steinberg tells his story with honest insights about how it feels to be a person in the public eye whose personal problems become the hot topic in local news. His descriptions of rehab and AA meetings are candid, humble and very human.

Basically, while I didn't like the author or relate personally with him, I think he wrote an outstanding memoir.

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POD said...

Enjoyed this book as I enjoy most books about people who are out of control.
Great write up.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate you making the distinction there, between liking the person and enjoying how he writes. What's so sinister about some abusive people is how very intelligent and charming they can be otherwise.

Alison (Alison's Book Marks) said...

You handled this review with such grace. I don't usually read memoirs, mostly because of the true-life horrors, such as abuse, that are simply too difficult for me to read. If there were no tragic story, there would be nothing to write about.

sherry said...

Janell - thanks!

evening reader - so true...have you read "The Sociopath Next Door?"

Alison - thanks so much for your kind words.