A Drinking Life: A Memoir
Rugged prose and a rare attention to telling detail have long distinguished Pete Hamill's unique brand of journalism and his universally well received fiction. Twenty years after his last drink, he examines the years he spent as a full-time member of the drinking culture. The result is A Drinking Life, a stirring and exhilarating memoir float is his most personal writing to date. The eldest son of Irish immigrants, Hamill learned from his Brooklyn upbringing during the Depression and World War II that drinking was an essential part of being a man; he only had to accompany his father up the street to the warm, amber-colored world of Gallagher's bar to see that drinking was what men did. It played a crucial role in mourning the death of relatives or the loss of a job, in celebrations of all kinds, even in religion. In the navy and the world of newspapers, he learned that bonds of friendship, romance, and professional camaraderie were sealed with drink. It was later that he discovered that drink had the power to destroy those very bonds and corrode any writer's most valuable tools: clarity, consciousness, memory. It was almost too late when he left drinking behind forever. Neither sentimental nor self-righteous, this is a seasoned writer's vivid portrait of the first four decades of his life and the slow, steady way that alcohol became an essential part of that life. Along the way, he summons the mood of a time and a place gone forever, with the bittersweet fondness of a lifetime New Yorker. It is his best work yet.