Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A Drinking Life: A Memoir by Pete Hamill

Pete Hamill has been one of my favorite authors and writers for a long time. This book covers ground and was published entirely before he entered my awareness. The story of his boyhood in Brooklyn, in The Neighborhood grabbed me, and didn't let me go until sometime in the mid 1970's when Pete Hamill heard his father singing on a hillside in Ireland (aka the last page of the memoir.). Hamill is still around and writing, so there's no spoilers there. I think the decades that make up the gap from end of this book to current day must, most certainly, be filled with fabulous tales.

I've loved Hamill's writing since I read Snow in August when it first came out in 1997. I gave it to my mother to read and he won my heart with her response. My mother grew up in Brooklyn, and though her neighborhood there was not Hamill's, she wept reading the story. "He knows," she said. "He knows." Some of his other books have also found a place on the bookshelf of my heart. When he writes of New York City, you are there, even in his memoir. I will say there were certain elements that fascinated me: that he dreamed of being a cartoonist; that in his quest to find himself, he got lost in his own neighborhood; that he found a way out to follow his art, only to lose it to circumstance, and stumble into what would become his career, and his gift to readers. I read of his time in Mexico City when my offspring was there, enjoying a visit with friends, and experiencing the opposite end of the spectrum from Hamill's experiences (thank goodness.) It was also fascinated to find the well known names, particularly in the last bit of the book, sprinkled into his life, some quite significantly.

Fascinating writing. Fascinating story. Not your usual "how I got sober" story, but one that truly investigated the life he led, how he got to the point that made him rethink, and very briefly, past that point. It's clear that Mr Hamill knows is craft as a writer and reporter. I raise my ginger ale to you, sir.

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