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Showing 1-10 of 71 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 118 reviews
on April 9, 2003
A Drinking Life is really an autobiographical memoir. Hamill is the son of an Irish immigrant and finds that the culture of drink is part of the culture of being a man. However, he also watched his father, who was a fall down alcoholic through his life growing up, and thus recalled the pain it imposed on his family's life.
In the course of telling his story, Hamill reveals that he was a person who was constantly going from place to place, all over the world. What exactly he is searching for, he never really reveals. But eventually, he does come to grips with the fact that the Drinking Life is detrimental to his continued existence.
One of his greatest lines in the entire book is in his introduction when he states, "But life doesn't get easier when you walk away from the culture of drink; you simply live it with greater lucidity." The book is a fine example of someone who eventually realizes that life is "better" if not easier, without his addiction. The book is an inspiring story and I recommend it to all observers of social behavior.
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on October 27, 2012
Pete Hamill and I are the same age-77. He grew up on the East coast while I split my coming of age years between Wisconsin and Los Angeles. Consequently, we have some of the same childhood memories, before the war, the war and after the war. we both collected bacon grease, he was told it was for oiling guns. I was told it was for ammunition. I think I my version was right.

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
thought,
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
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on March 20, 2012
Quite frankly, I don't understand all the glowing reviews of this book. Hamill writes very well, and apparently has excellent memories of his childhood. And that's why I didn't care for this book; more than 2/3 of this book deals with his childhood. Also, he delves into his teenage years and his sexual experiences in graphic detail; I didn't buy this book to read about that.
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".
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on January 18, 2017
Love this book! Pete Hammil's descriptions of Irish life in Brooklyn during WWII, post-war and the 50s, and Greenwich Village in the 60s is spot on, reflecting my own parents' upbringing and memorable visits to my aunts and uncles during those years. Hammill was a very admired columnist and role model for aspiring journalists in NYC in the late seventies and eighties, and this honest portrayal of the man behind the image is a true delight.
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on July 18, 2016
This is a story about a very textured life, lived fully and successfully, with a persistent and painful subtext of alcohol. I am in awe of people who achieve much in life in spite of drinking quantities of alcohol that would have disabled me completely - Pete Hamill is one of these people. As Hamill states in the book, after he finally quit drinking, he never wanted to moralize or preach about his decision to quit drinking. This attitude is informs the book, which is more a story of his life & times and his improbable path to writing that almost parenthetically happens to include a lot of drinking. One of the book's contributions to the literature of alcohol addiction is Hamill's depiction of the way in which drinking was so densely woven into the world in which he grew up. Finally, Hamill did the unthinkable and broke free.
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on November 14, 2015
May be my favorite author of all time. All stories spun with the essence of a true New Yorker with a style of writing that paints pictures with the ideal balance of pain and beauty that you had no idea you yearned.
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on July 15, 2016
Memoir about growing up in New York was interesting and realistic. Tone of the novel was engaging. Took away one star because the drinking part was redundant and not descriptive except for getting drunk and feeling remorseful. If you're looking for a book about the agony of alcoholism, this isn't it.
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on October 7, 2013
I guess I had heard of Pete Hamill when "NYC old timers" were referenced. However, it was when reading "A Drinking Life" by Caroline Knapp did I feel compelled to seek out this book. I understand other reviwers' disappointment that Hamill's memoir wasn't at all like Caroline Knapp's hard-core and raw experience with alcohol addicition. To be fair, Hamill's letter in the very beginning of the book primes you for his life story and the eventual discovery that his drinking had been riding side-saddle with him for as long as he could remember. It sure helped me understand how drinking can cloak itself in merriment and celebration, but that its long-term effects can (and will) erode and destroy pretty much everything in its path. And it helps shed light on why, culturally, we equate the Irish with big-time drinking. I also appreciated the history lesson you receive through the eyes of a young boy. It was easy to visualize Hamill's world with his intimate descriptions of the places he lived and the characters who helped shape his life.

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.
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on October 18, 2016
I've read two Pete Hamill books Snow in August and A Drinking Life. I didn't enjoy either one. The latter didn't have a Golem to save it though. A Drinking Life tells of a self absorbed arrogant jerk.
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on February 11, 2008
Pete Hamill"s deeply introspective memoir of his coming of age during the late 40's and 50's in working class Brooklyn is a brutally honest account of how alcohol gets integrated into certain rights of passage as people , especially men navigate the transition to adulthood.

His story could be anyone's, except that Hamill writes in a gripping personal style that infuses each episode in his young life with a sense of urgency. The struggle to reconcile with a distant father never deteriorates into a sense of victimhood. I admired the fact that Hamill is able to describe his youthful feelings of anger toward his father without wallowing in them and always with a sense of someone seeking to understand and forgive.

This is a great book on several levels. Hamill captures a sense of the old neighborhoods of New York that have vanished and the strong influence that a sense of place had on young people of his generation when the world was quite a bit smaller.
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