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The Recovering

The Recovering

Intoxication and Its Aftermath

Book - 2018
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Presents an exploration of addiction that blends memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and journalistic reportage to analyze the role of stories in conveying the addiction experience, sharing insights based on the lives of artists whose achievements were shaped by addiction.
"A transformative work showing that sometimes the recovery is more gripping than the addiction. With its deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and reportage, [this book] turns our understanding of the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that the story of recovery can be every bit as electrifying as the train wreck itself. Leslie Jamison deftly excavates the stories we tell about addiction--both her own and others'--and examines what we want these stories to do and what happens when they fail us. All the while, she offers a fascinating look at the larger history of the recovery movement, and at the complicated bearing that race and class have on our understanding of who is criminal and who is ill. At the heart of the book is Jamison's ongoing conversation with literary and artistic geniuses whose lives and works were shaped by alcoholism and substance dependence, including John Berryman, Jean Rhys, Billie Holiday, Raymond Carver, Denis Johnson, and David Foster Wallace, as well as brilliant lesser-known figures such as George Cain, lost to obscurity but newly illuminated here. Through its unvarnished relation of Jamison's own ordeals, The Recovering also becomes a book about a different kind of dependency: the way our desires can make us all, as she puts it, 'broken spigots of need.' It's about the particular loneliness of the human experience--the craving for love that both devours us and shapes who we are. For her striking language and piercing observations, Jamison has been compared to such iconic writers as Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, yet her utterly singular voice also offers something new. With enormous empathy and wisdom, Jamison has given us nothing less than the story of addiction and recovery in America writ large, a definitive and revelatory account that will resonate for years to come."--Dust jacket.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2018
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780316259613
Branch Call Number: 616.8603 J246R 2018
Characteristics: 534 pages ; 25 cm


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May 16, 2019

Can you still be creative and fun when you are in recovery? She answered this question with her own life experiences and that of other writers. Well worth the read especially if you are in a 12-step program.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Nov 17, 2018

Part memoir, part exploration of famously drunk and recovering authors, and part exploration of recovery in general. A solid and unique recovery memoir.

Jul 19, 2018

This could have been a gripping memoir, but then again, maybe it couldn't.

Perhaps it was the author's voice in the audio book version that did it, but I found the narrative extremely grating. The English-class-essay style quotations and excerpts from famously alcoholic famous people (while admittedly the most interesting part of this book) come across as a cheap attempt at drawing parallels - borrowing from someone else's story to enrich her own. I found the author's own story to be a bit of a cliché, to tell the truth. Another rich white girl with daddy issues travels the globe, lives dangerously, but still manages to end up on top.

While she mentions her position of privilege and spends a great deal of time describing the disparity between people of color and Caucasians when it comes to addiction and its treatment, the constant reminder that she herself is upper-class, white, and unburdened by economic or social hardship diminishes the impact. How can you spend a chapter describing the racist history of demonizing Black and Latina mothers who drink or use, then turn around and tell us how you drove home drunk every night without consequence (that you know of)? Yes, all stories matter, but I'd rather read a book representing Own Voices than another commentary from someone without perspective. I feel like she wants the reader to feel sorry for her, by making these comparisons. I only feel disappointed.

I have dealt with mental illness, had an eating disorder, and have loved and cared for an alcoholic. I understand the struggle. That's why I picked this book up in the first place. Unfortunately, I can't help but find myself agreeing with the elderly man in one of her remembered AA meetings: "This is boring."


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