Frederick Exley, A Fan’s Notes (1968)
Authenticity
in The Existential drinker
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Fred Ex is the committed drinking protagonist of Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes, in thrall to the career of the New York Giants footballer Frank Gifford. He realises he will never have fame of his own, and over time discovers himself to be alienated from all aspects of modern life and the American dream. The chapter analyses how these elements relate to Existential authenticity, including the novel’s play around the idea of ‘fictional memoir’ and autofiction. There are periods of depression for Fred Ex which lead to being committed to a mental asylum, and the chapter covers the philosophical issues around agency in relation to drinking and mental well-being. This chapter also looks at the protagonist as a developing writer since the novel is partly a Künstlerroman, and how this in turn is entangled with drinking.

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