Ablutions

Patrick deWitt, Author
Patrick deWitt, Author . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt $23 (164p) ISBN 978-0-15-101498-9
Reviewed on: 01/05/2009
Release date: 02/01/2009
Paperback - 164 pages - 978-1-77089-214-9
Ebook - 176 pages - 978-1-77089-215-6
Paperback - 164 pages - 978-0-547-33571-1
Paperback - 176 pages - 978-1-84708-634-1
Open Ebook - 176 pages - 978-0-547-48860-8
Hardcover - 1 pages - 978-1-4074-9895-9
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Charles Bukowski’s ghost hovers over deWitt’s grim first novel about a bartender at a Hollywood watering hole and its down-and-out regulars. The unnamed bartender’s observations on his co-workers and customers comprise a good chunk of the novel. There’s Simon, the manager, a coke-addled failed actor; Merlin, a freelance life coach in his 70s; the unemployed Curtis, who distributes as tips used electronics from his apartment; Terese and Teri, known as The Teachers, who have slept with all the doormen at the bar; and the former child star for whom oblivion can’t come soon enough. The bartender himself is also a lush, and after losing his wife he embarks on a halfhearted cleanup. When this fails to take, he returns to the bar and plans one last ploy to break free of his increasingly onerous existence. The downward spiral is a hellish descent that seems bottomless, and while the character sketches are fascinating in detail, the plotless ramble can make this relatively short novel feel overlong. Fans of Bukowski and the Fantes, however, won’t mind. (Feb.)

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