LIVE
By Gene Lyons
Updated January 28, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST
Advertisement

A Drinking Life

type
  • Book
genre

A celebrity journalist in New York, Pete Hamill has never played particularly well out of town. Like many a professional Gothamite, the longtime columnist and editor has always carried too strong a provincial accent. The vividness and clear sense of place that mark his best work have rendered it too strongly flavored for readers west of the Hudson. With A DRINKING LIFE (Little, Brown, $21.95), Hamill’s remarkable memoir of his life and times as a drunk, all that should change. Energetic, compelling, very funny, and remarkably-indeed, often brutally-candid, Hamill’s tale won’t soon be forgotten. Born in 1935, Hamill grew up in an Irish Catholic enclave in Brooklyn, where he absorbed Irish lore at his mother’s knee. From his father, however, the boy learned more complicated lessons-most of them centering on ”the tight, dark, amber-colored, wool-smelling world” of saloons. Long before drugs came to Brooklyn, alcohol was the universal social emollient, and Hamill snuck his first beer when he was 10. ”For all of us, boys and girls, drinking was natural. It was also woven together with sex.” At 37, he recognized that booze was wrecking his emotional life and ruining his health. He quit cold turkey. But A Drinking Life is much more than the story of Pete Hamill and the bottle. It’s also a classic American tale of a young person’s struggle to expand his horizons without doing violence to his personal identity. Even the ambition to become a writer involved breaking taboos: ”Who do you think you are? some collective voice from the Neighborhood called to me. Who the hell do you think you are?” Well, whatever he thought then, Hamill has long since turned himself into an author of rare distinction and moral force. A

A Drinking Life

type
  • Book
genre
author
  • Pete Hamill

Comments