The Alcoholic is about a man called Jonathan A., who bears a striking resemblance to Jonathan Ames, although who is to say if the author has the same drinking and drug past as his hero. This graphic novel starts with a scene in August 2001 with Jonathan with an older homeless woman in her car as she asks him to make love to her. It traces his past from his time in high school when he started getting drunk every weekend. We see his emotional vulnerability when he has a sexual experience with his best friend Sal, and following that event their friendship then weakens and finally ends. We follow him as he goes through phases of heaving drinking or using drugs. He becomes a successful author and he has some relationships with women. He has one serious one with a girl who, when they first meet, he calls Manhattan. It lasts for 9 months, and then she breaks up with him and leaves for San Francisco. He is devastated, and spends most of the rest of the novel brooding over his loss. He also meets his old friend Sal, and although it goes well that evening, it does not last. Again, Jonathan obsesses over the lost relationship. When September 11, 2001, comes, Jonathan is affected, but it doesn't make a fundamental difference to his life. This biggest part of the whole experience is bumping into Bill Clinton in the street and getting into a conversation with him. So this is a novel that does not portray its hero in a flattering light: indeed, she seems neurotic, self-destructive, and superficial.
The black and white artwork by Dean Haspiel is bold and dynamic. The story is well told and the book is an easy read. It's a strong depiction of how alcohol and drugs can stop a person from facing their lives and rather keeps them in a state of self-deception and fear, messing up their lives and unable to relate to other people.
· Jonathan Ames website
· DC Vertigo Comics
© 2009 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.
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