The Alcoholic

By Bill Kohlhaase

Posted February 25, 2009 in Arts & Culture

Comics are the perfect vehicle for memoir, both fictional and . . . well, is there any other kind? The Alcoholic takes full advantage of illustration’s ability for both aggrandizement and visual parody. Cartoonist Dean Haspiel (American Splendor) draws Ames’ sodden narrative with stylistic humor and occasional exaggeration. A. has razor-sharp features (that nose!) and the girls he beds possess endless legs. How much of author Jonathan Ames is present in his fictional character Jonathan A. is open to question. But readers of Ames’ previous work—The Extra Man, I Love You More Than You Know—will see a pattern. The story delves into sexual confusion, obsession, addiction of all kinds and the inevitable effects of guilt. Ames frames his narrative in hilarious anecdotes. He’s caught in the backseat of a car with a drunken matron, buries himself at the beach to avoid capture, pursues an elusive love, shares a sausage with Monica Lewinisky and maintains a life-long love for a devoted aunt (which may explain the drunken matron incident). A.’s cycle of binge and purge gives the whole thing a weary inevitability and the book’s last, full-page panel says volumes about the alcoholic’s dilemma. It’s one picture worth more than a thousand words.

–Bill Kohlhaase

Vertigo/DC Comics, 136 pages, hardback $19.99


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