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Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood Hardcover – February 7, 2005
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so i have to repeat - how very sad that she has cut herself off from all the wonderful people (women) she could meet by attending AA and learn how to manage her - very obvious - drinking problem. she is still blaming everyone else (i.e. the alcohol industry) for her problems. to anyone reading this book that identifies with her and is at a loss as to what they should do - she is in denial about her problem and is what is known as a "dry drunk". those alcohol ads that demean women did not make her pick up a drink and cause her feelings of inferiority and isolation and paranoia, etc etc - she is a sick woman and needs to get some help. a good place to start is with the support of other people just like you/her - maybe go to a meeting and learn how to get your life back together again. you do not need to struggle on your own like she does or meet a man to get your sanity back. i am not saying AAis the only way, only suggesting that you not discount it the way she did.
At some point during the book's conception, someone must have planted in Zailckas's head the idea that her story could become a defining tale of her generation. Apparently, she took it to heart. Pop culture references to the mid-1990's litter nearly every paragraph of the first half of the book. If the narrator isn't listening to music by the Crash Test Dummies, she is making a Seinfeld reference, or comparing her having snuck out of her parents' house to the movie The Shawshank Redemption. A flavor of the times is nice, but the references are so frequent and blatant that it becomes furiously aggravating. When she manages to drop her Trivial Pursuit act, Zailckas constantly goes back to her other old-faithful approach - nearly clichéd metaphors.
However, the biggest fault of "Smashed" is in characterization. Supporting characters throughout the book are introduced and left behind with no consequence, no purpose. Not once does a single character stand out from the page and become important for anything other than simplistic symbolism - "The Childhood Friend of the Past," "the Ongoing College Romantic Interest." Characters who actually appear on a more frequent basis are given little description or basis to ever make them lifelike. Most tragic, however, is the fact that Zailckas's poor characterization is also applicable to herself, the narrator. In any story with a prominent anti-hero protagonist, it is extremely important that readers have some reason to want the main character to succeed. In other books that deal with substance abuse, such as James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" or Burrough's "Junkie," intriguing pieces of the protagonists's personalities stream through the horrors of abuse - wit, cleverness, a soft spot for another character, compassion - qualities that even the most abstinent reader can be drawn to, leading the reader to care enough about the character that the obstacles faced seem even more horrible. "Smashed" offers none of that - it is simply a story that follows the narrator around to various bars and parties. The narrator does not seem to care what happens to her, and therefore, neither will the reader. We see nothing of the narrator to make us want her to succeed.
Bravo to Zailckas for writing on a serious subject that has become far too accepted in today's society. However, those noble intentions were not enough to make this a good book.