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Authenticity

15 8 Frederick Exley, A Fan’s Notes (1968): authenticity ‘I’ve discovered what alcoholism is’. Before readers get to the main narrative of Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes, they are given a few pointers as to what they might expect to be its major themes. The first signpost is the subtitle, ‘A Fictional Memoir’, indicating a confusing, confused, or paradoxical genre. The confusion is exacerbated with the preliminary ‘A Note to the Reader’, beginning ‘Though the events in this book bear similarity to those of that long malaise, my life, many of the characters

in The Existential drinker

Drinking to excess has been a striking problem for industrial and post-industrial societies – who is responsible when a ‘free’ individual opts for a slow suicide? The causes of such drinking have often been blamed on heredity, moral weakness, ‘disease’ (addiction), hedonism, and Romantic illusion. Yet there is another reason which may be more fundamental and which has been overlooked or dismissed, and it is that the drinker may act with sincere philosophical intent. The Existential Drinker looks at the convergence of a new kind of excessive, habitual drinking, beginning in the nineteenth century, and a new way of thinking about the self which in the twentieth century comes to be labelled ‘Existential’. A substantial introduction covers questions of self, will, consciousness, authenticity, and ethics in relation to drinking, while introducing aspects of Existential thought pertinent to the discussion. The Existential-drinker canon is anchored in Jack London’s ‘alcoholic memoir’ John Barleycorn (1913), where London claims he can get at the truth of existence only through the insights afforded by excessive and repeated alcohol use. The book then covers drinker-texts such as Jean Rhys’s interwar novels, Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano, Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend and John O’Brien’s Leaving Las Vegas, along with less well-known works such as Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes, Venedikt Yerofeev’s Moscow–Petushki, and A. L. Kennedy’s Paradise. The book will appeal to anybody with an interest in drinking and literature, as well as those with more specialised concerns in drinking studies, Existentialism, twentieth-century literature, and medical humanities.

, reading the frontier into a variety of written texts concerned with St Vincent. First of these is the journal of the nineteenth-century diarist John Anderson, a stipendiary magistrate recruited to apply the law in the post-slavery apprenticeship period. Then I deal with two novels that offer sketches of St Vincent life: G. C. H. Thomas’s fictionalised memoir Ruler in Hiroona ( 1989 [1972]), and

in Frontiers of the Caribbean
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 Drank to Forget; Caroline Knapp, Drinking: A Love Story; 24 242 Conclusion Augusten Burroughs, Dry: A Memoir; Alan Kaufman, Drunken Angel; Jowita Bydlowska, Drunken Mum:  A Memoir; Rachel Black, Sober is the New Black: A Then and Now Account of Life Beyond Booze.10 And then as well there are memoirs designed as self-​help books:  Veronica Valli, an addictions therapist and recovering alcoholic, Why You Drink and How to Stop: A Journey to Freedom. Jason Vale in Kick the Drink … Easily! argues that there is no such thing as an alcoholic, and here’s how to give it up

in The Existential drinker
Truth

65 2 Jack London, John Barleycorn (1913): truth John Barleycorn must have his due. He does tell the truth. That is the curse of it. John Barleycorn (1913) is Jack London’s account of his life from youth up to the time of writing the book, held together thematically by the author’s love-​hate relationship with ‘John Barleycorn’, a traditional personification of drink. The memoir has a conversational style which earns the trust of the reader, and in regaling its audience with the life of Jack London we see the concerns with poverty, gender, authorship

in The Existential drinker
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, where ‘alcoholics’ are not regarded as responsible for their disease, they do nevertheless remain responsible for managing their condition, which again must be a question of will. Whether the reader accepts or rejects the idea of a certain drinking behaviour as ‘alcoholic’ or ‘addictive’ or ‘substance-​dependent’, we always come back to the notion that individuals are constituted by freedom, a central tenet of Existential thought.43 Caroline Knapp’s recovery memoir Drinking:  A Love Story (1996), a deeply personal account of a drinking life from a position that

in The Existential drinker
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In the spirit of the gift of love

corrective. 9 While my interest in Cixous’ work has consistently been grounded in the way I read her as developing a notion of love that is ethical primarily to the extent that it is abundant, excessive, and generous and thus that runs counter to sacrificial versions of love, in some of her very recent memoir writing which includes reflection on her animals, there is the disturbing trace of sacrificial logic. See for example ‘Stigmata, or Job the Dog’ from Stigmata: Escaping Texts (1998) where she narrates the tragic story of her childhood dog, Fips. See also Messie (1996

in The subject of love
Self and others

1960s), and frequently have the history of Russian literature woven into the prose texture (and again, not so different from a book like A Fan’s Notes, with Ex’s frequent references to other American writers; like A Fan’s Notes, Limonov’s It’s Me Eddie is subtitled ‘A Fictional Memoir’). In these ways, Yerofeev’s aesthetic choices are not unique: for example, the refusal of 815 Venedikt Yerofeev, Moscow–​Petushki 185 ‘realism’ in favour of literary techniques that invoke schizophrenic, hallucinatory, and stream-​of-​consciousness modes, as well as the use of a

in The Existential drinker
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The life and times of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

aspirations). It was here, in rural solitude, that he started to write his most formidable contributions to philosophy: Emile, Du Contrat Social and La Nouvelle Héloïse. But it was also at L’Ermitage that he became infatuated with Sophie d’Houdetot, Mme d’Epinay’s sister-in-law. Rousseau – if we Chap001.p65 10 11/09/03, 13:32 The politics of the soul 11 are to believe Hume (Hume 1932: 527) – was a ladies’ man. In a memoir he wrote that ‘all the great ladies teaze me to be introduced to him: I had Rouleaus thrust into my hand with earnest applications, that would

in The political philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau

remains of my father? I believe absolutely in 89 Interestingly, having for many years said she would never write about her mother, while seemingly never ceasing to write with and about her father, some of Cixous’ most recent writings, which take the form of something more like memoir, are significantly engaged with questions about her relationship with her mother and the implicit role her mother has played as the source of her writing. See especially Osnabrück (1999), Reveries of the Wild Woman (2006a [2000]), and The Day I Wasn’t There (2006b [2000]). At different

in The subject of love