Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alcoholism is not all fun and games

So, continuing in my trend of reading about drunken Irishmen, this week I read "Charming Billy", by Alice McDermott:

This is one of those casualties of reading the books in your bookshelves in alphabetical order by author.  Sometimes you end up reading several books by the same person in a row, and then moving on to another person whose name starts with "Mc," and so is likely to have similar subject matter.  This is also the casualty of living with a Catholic: that your bookshelves will have a disproportionate number of Irishmen and women in them.  It has something to do with the perpetual virginity of Mary, I think.

Anyway, Charming Billy Lynch is an alcoholic who drinks himself to death, much in the style of the father in Angela's ashes, only he's not poor, holds down a job and doesn't have any children, so really it's not so bad.  All his friends are mad at him all the time because they think drinking yourself to death is a bad thing, but they also think he's charming and like hanging out with him in bars.  Even with the occasional misty water-colored memory of his father by Frank McCourt, Malachy McCourt isn't exactly charming the way his drinking results in them eating nothing but berries found on the side of the road for a week.  

All in all, if I have to rate them (which I do, because I read them back to back and I'm incapable of not comparing things that are practically rubbing elbows), I preferred Frank McCourt's memoirs.  Alice McDermott's style is much more descriptive and I really loved how detailed she got sometimes, but I also found her occasional use of repetition to be distracting.  Plus, I'm just a sucker for the extreme poverty and abuse stories, and even a bloated body found on the street doesn't quite make up the difference.


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