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Titles similar to The Recovering
In this exacting memoir and multifaceted inquiry into addiction and recovery, Jamison reveals that while she was at Harvard and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and writing her novel, The Gin Closet (2010), she was, in phases, cutting herself, coping with anorexia, and drinking heavily. She worked on her highly lauded essay collection, The Empathy Exams (2014), while attending a doctoral program at Yale and battling to stay sober. Jamison observes, “My childhood was easier than most, and I ended up drinking anyway,” a conundrum somewhat explained by a parsing of her family history. Her belief that she “had to earn affection and love by being interesting” induced her to seek the unfettering, the bliss, the risk, and the escape alcohol delivers. Writing with galvanizing specificity and mesmerizing fluidity, Jamison recounts her constant preoccupation with alcohol; her numerous crazy, dangerous, bad drunks; her blackouts and hangovers. She exhaustively documents her fraught relationships with men, gradually disclosing how her drinking fostered a distorted and isolating sense of self. As she commits herself to AA, she explores the complications and paradoxes of recovery, including the way stories of addiction are told.
Within this relentless work of self-scrutiny, Jamison also conducts a meticulously researched, richly nuanced, and sensitive inquiry into the lives of now-legendary alcoholic writers, and keenly critiques the romanticized “whisky-and-ink mythology” of the tormented, hard-drinking literary genius. She contrasts the reverence for such white male writers as John Berryman and Raymond Carver, whom she portrays deeply, with the ways chemically dependent women writers, such as Jean Rhys, another focus, were maligned or pitied. Widening the lens and adding race to the mix, she protests the brutal criminalization of addiction that destroyed Billie Holiday. She then compares the lives of famous addicts with those of the diverse people she meets at the many recovery meetings she attends, encounters that alter her life and her writing.
With her thorough dissection of The Lost Weekend (1944), Charles R. Jackson’s now-classic autobiographical novel of alcoholism, and reclamation of George Cain’s autobiographical novel of addiction and African American life, Blueschild Baby (1970), Jamison’s encompassing investigation makes an excellent pairing with Olivia Laing’s The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking (2014). Jamison’s questing immersion in intoxication and sobriety is exceptional in its vivid, courageous, hypnotic telling; brilliant in its subtlety of perception, interpretation, and compassion; and capacious in its scholarship, scale, concern, and mission.
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