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Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.


Recovery - Thomas; John Berryman (Introduction) Nashe Berryman did not survive his alcoholism. In 1972, while still writing this thinly-veiled autobiographical novel, he abandoned his attempts to recover from the addiction that had made his life a living hell and jumped from the Washington Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father killled himself in 1926, when Berryman was twelve, an event which haunted Berryman and many of the images in his poetry. Berryman's suicide shadows my reading of the book (especially since both my brothers also committed suicide as a direct result of addiction -- April is the Cruelest Month). Set in the 1960s, in RECOVERY, Dr. Alan Severance wakes up from a blackout one morning to discover he has once again been confined to the alcoholic treatment wing of a hospital. He is, this time, determined to liberate himself from his disease, to face it head on and with rigorous honesty. Following the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, he struggles to take the first step - "To admit we are powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable." He confesses his humiliations, defeats, and delusions in an attempt to cleanse himself and achieve the humility necessary to recovery. Although the novel is clearly unfinished, unpolished and unedited, Berryman's sharp wit, humanity and intelligence are evident throughout. There are pacing problems, and the recovery-model examined is dated. One can't help but wonder what revisions Berryman might have made if he had been able to defy despair. There is an interesting forward by Saul Bellow, in which he says, "Inspiration [for Berryman] contained a death threat. He would, as he wrote the things he had waited and prayed for, fall apart. Drink was a stabilizer. It somehow reduced the fatal intensity. Perhaps it replaced the pubic sanction which poets in the Twin Cities (or in Chicago, in Washington or New York) had to do without. This sanction was not wickedly withheld. It simply did not exist. No one minded if you bred poodles. No one objected if you wrote Dream Songs. Some men of genius were fortunate. They could somehow come to terms with their respective countries. Others had women, the bottle, the hospital. Even in France, far from the Twin Cities, a Verlaine had counted heavily on hospitals and prisons." Of course, the truth is that coming to terms with that shriek into the silence is something all writers, save for the anointed few, must contend with, and although I think Bellows, and perhaps even Berryman, romanticize it, that's what writers are prone to do, too, I'm afraid, and I count myself in that number. If you are interested in my own voyage through the turbulent waters of alcoholism and writing, please read my essay, When There's No Sky Left.