cover image Sams in a Dry Season CL

Sams in a Dry Season CL

Ivan Gold. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $19.95 (244pp) ISBN 978-0-395-52281-3

Gold, who made a promising literary debut in the '60s with the short story collection Nickel Miseries and the novel Sick Friends , has not hitherto been heard from since. The reason, apparently, was an extended bout with alcoholism, distilled into fiction here. The story of Jason Sams, failed writer, sheepish husband and father, and hopeless drunkard, is familiar fictional turf; but Gold brings to it a lot of style and verve, catching the dreamlike sense of inevitable but gladly accepted ruin the true alcoholic seems to feel. The time span of the novel embraces a lost New York weekend in which Sams sees his agent, his wary new editor (an acute publishing eye at work here), sponges off an old friend, visits his parents, attends a funeral and reminisces about his derailed life. Where it differs from most such downbeat, morosely humorous accounts is in the resolution: Sams enrolls reluctantly in AA, stops drinking but has no sudden epiphany. Rather he becomes glumly grateful for being able to function at all, while remaining grimly aware of the gulf over which he hangs. But if Sams does not triumph, Gold certainly does. His is a brave and salutary book, quite without self-pity, and marks the welcome, and moving, return of a highly talented writer. (Sept.)