The Lost Weekend

Charles Jackson, Author, Blake Bailey, Introduction by
Charles Jackson. Vintage, $15 trade paper (248p) ISBN 978-0-307-94871-7
Reviewed on: 01/28/2013
Release date: 02/12/2013
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In this new edition of Jackson’s groundbreaking, autobiographical 1944 novel, we meet Don Birnam, a charming, handsome, 33-year-old alcoholic who has just abandoned a fragile three-day sobriety. Don’s writing career has been thwarted by his out-of-control binge drinking, and he has alienated everyone in his life save for his long-suffering brother Wick, who lives with him and pays all his bills, and his eternally patient, sometime girlfriend, Helen. During the eponymous five-day bender, Don careens violently around New York City, borrowing and losing money, getting kicked out of bars, and waking with no recollection of the previous day’s events. With direct prose and a refreshing lack of pathos, Jackson lays bare the inner torment and outward chaos of Don’s downward spiral. He vividly details Don’s euphoric tunnel vision and delusions of grandeur that occur when Don is drunk, and the crippling pain of withdrawal and terror of delirium when he is not. Just like his loved ones and the strangers he encounters, the reader is repeatedly duped by Don’s lies; we believe him every time because of Jackson’s masterful storytelling. This frank examination, written before the disease of alcoholism was understood, offers no solution, no moral, just an unblinking look into the life and mind of an addict. (Feb.)
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