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A Drinking Life: A Memoir Paperback – April 1, 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
Readers expecting a gossipy "How I became a newspaper man" autobiography won't find it in reporter-novelist Hamill's first nonfiction book. The title notwithstanding, this is also no powerful Days of Wine and Roses memoir. Hamill devotes many pages to an almost year-by-year account of his Depression and World War II Brooklyn childhood. The son of Irish immigrants, Hamill soon learns about the "culture of drinking" from his alcoholic father. Hamill at first seeks escape through pulp fiction and comic books (he longs to be a cartoonist), but as a teenager he gets drunk with his street pals and becomes sexually confident under booze's liberating influence. The rest of Hamill's book is a sketchy overview of his Navy years, his turbulent first marriage, his early career at the New York Post , and of course his "drinking life." While a skillful writer, Hamill strangely fails to convey the true horror of alcoholism. Recommended for libraries where his novels are popular. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/93-- Wilda Wil liams, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
He and I both started drinking beer at an early age...we both were flummoxed by girls...at first. I went on to marry my high school sweetheart. Pete dropped out of school to chase women and his dreams. We both continued to drink. I think Pete became a serious alcoholic while I, of course, was just a "hard drinker". He finally quit and so did I.
We both wrote a coming of age memoir. Mine is called, "20 YEARS TO LIFE...A Memoir" the self imposed sentence about an only child with an attitude whose crime was he thought growing up would be an easy ride.
Reading Pete's cool memoir led me to compose this short poem called, "I Quit".
The day I quit had
nothing much to do
with Holy Writ.
And, I'd have to say,
it wasn't AA.
It was just a simple
that I ought.
Of course there's remorse
when friends fade away.
Just no fun, they'll say.
But often they'll twitter
they aren't really bitter.
Some even will admire the spunk
it takes to stop being a drunk.
And in a show of serious class,
They'll raise yet another glass
then perhaps sigh, and even admit
they, too, think it's time to quit
Because of Hamill's ambitious undertaking with this memoir, I felt the book was uneven at times. In my mind, more minor anecdotes received a larger spotlight with more detail, while more critical turning points in his life faded out as a sub-chapter was coming to a close.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. Not only is Pete Hamill a living NYC legend, he has lived a legendary life that is worth taking in.
A much better read is his "Why Sinatra Matters", one of the very best books I've ever read about my idol...that book I rate 5 stars, but not "A Drinking Life".